July 2, 2024 

Phoenix Mercury drop back-to-back home games for first time this season

Now 7-4 at home, the Mercury play five of their remaining six games before the All-Star break on the road

PHOENIX — For much of the Phoenix Mercury’s season, homecourt advantage has truly worked in their favor. Before starting this past weekend’s homestand, they were 6-2 at home, in contrast to being 2-6 on the road. But with Monday’s 83-72 loss to the Connecticut Sun, the Mercury dropped two consecutive home games for the first time this season. 

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More importantly, the need for the Mercury to perform on the road is heightened with them sitting at 9-10 and slated to play five of their six games before the All-Star break away from Phoenix.

“Yeah, I mean, we got to keep pressing,” head coach Nate Tibbetts told reporters after Monday’s loss. “I think good teams finish well before break and then they come out of break. So obviously, last night was a tough one because we had our chances but this is professional sports, right? You got to just stay with it. And you can’t hang your head because no one’s going to feel sorry for you. And yeah, all these games are important here to finish.”

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The homestand started on Friday against the Los Angeles Sparks. It was the first of three games in four days. With nearly a week of rest from their previous game and a matchup against the then 4-13 Sparks, the Mercury started the weekend strong with a 92-78 win. For Friday’s game, the Mercury sold out the Footprint Center and hosted 14,363 fans. 

“I told [Mercury President Vince Kozar], you know, he’s done such a great job on the business side,” Tibbetts said. “… I think it was like the fourth home game of the year, fifth home game, I looked up and there was people up all the way to the top and I asked him I was like, do we always have that up there? And it was, you know, that’s the overflow. And tonight it was on both sides. So a credit to our business side. Hopefully, the people of Phoenix are kind of buying into this group because we love the support, obviously the X-Factor.”

Friday’s environment was just a primer for Sunday when the matchup against the Indiana Fever drew another sellout and the Mercury’s largest crowd of the season at 17,071 fans. However, this time Phoenix wasn’t able to use the energy from its home crowd to power its way to a win.

The abundant crowd was treated to a feisty first half with five technical fouls called and a dramatic back-and-forth second half in which Indiana overcame a 15-point deficit to knock off the Mercury on its home floor. The Mercury struggled in several facets of the game, shooting just 39.7% from the field and getting out-rebounded 42-28. 

“I think we just have to find that consistency over 40 minutes,” Mercury guard Diana Taurasi told reporters following Sunday’s loss. “I mean, we show we can play at a high level and then there’s times where we look around and we’ve gotta tighten up so you know, it’s still a work in progress.”

With a chance to reverse course and get back above .500 before heading back on the road, Phoenix couldn’t find their second win of the weekend in a back-to-back against the Sun. With Taurasi and wing Bec Allen out due to injury, Connecticut kept the Mercury at arm’s length for most of the game and handed Phoenix its fourth home loss on the year.

Many of the same struggles from Sunday’s game were present on Monday. Phoenix was just 3-of-17 from beyond the arc. Guard Sophie Cunningham filled in as a starter but went 0-for-4 from three and 1-for-7 from the field. Although she finished with 21 points, wing Kahleah Copper struggled to find her shot. With 12 points scored on layups and six from free throws, her lone 3-pointer in the second quarter was the only other shot she made.

The Sun had more than double the amount of rebounds Phoenix did, recording 37 to Phoenix’s 18. Center Brittney Griner, who stands at 6’8 had just two rebounds in 33 minutes of play. The next tallest player was Connecticut center Olivia Nelson-Ododa who is still three inches shorter than Griner.

Phoenix Mercury beat reporter Tia Reid reports from Footprint Center in Phoenix, AZ following the Mercury’s loss to the Connecticut Sun on July 1, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Tia Reid).

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The now 9-10 and Mercury sit at sixth in the league’s standings. Their home record is 7-4. Their only remaining home game before the All-Star break is July 10 versus the last-place Dallas Wings. 

In their remaining matchups before the break, the Mercury will play the Wings twice, the Sparks, the Fever, the Sun and the Washington Mystics. Connecticut is the only team with a record at or above .500. The Sparks, Mystics and Wings are currently the bottom three teams in the league.

With the upcoming slate, the Mercury have a real chance to turn their record around and build up a great deal of momentum before the break. However, if the Mercury’s road woes continue, they might just find themselves in a rough spot going into the back half of the season.

“Honestly, we just need to start with Dallas,” Mercury guard Natasha Cloud said after Monday’s loss. “We’ve gone into this stretch with knowing that we had nine games before the All-Star break, taking them one game at a time, but now dropping two, the reality is that we have to go get a win on the road. And I think it’s a challenge to us. It’s a challenge to this team that we need to be better on the road. We need to be able to pack our road warriors in our suitcases. We got to go get one. That’s just the reality of it. But we want to feel good going into All-Star. We want to try to get about .500 before the All-Star and that’s really important to us.”

Written by Tia Reid

Tia Reid covers the Phoenix Mercury for The Next. Her other work has also appeared on NCAA.com, College Gym News, Cronkite News/Arizona PBS and the Walter Cronkite Sports Network. Tia is a senior at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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