August 12, 2023 

Why are the Phoenix Mercury so much better at home than on the road?

The Mercury are 8-7 at the Footprint Center but 1-13 on the road

The Phoenix Mercury season has been reminiscent of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, especially when you review the team’s home and away records side-by-side.

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At the Footprint Center this season, the Mercury are 8-7. But on the road, they are 1-13, and 10 of those losses are by double digits.

In the majority of its home games, Phoenix has played competitive basketball. It has fallen by single digits in three of its seven losses, and other games came down to the wire, too, like a 75-69 loss to the Chicago Sky on May 21 or a 99-93 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Sparks on June 2.

On Aug. 5, the Mercury would have gone into overtime against the Seattle Storm if Storm guard Jewell Loyd had not banked in a 3-pointer late in the game and Seattle guard Sami Whitcomb had not heaved in a three as the shot clock was expiring. Phoenix lost 97-91, but it was a small blip in a great Mercury homestand.

In Phoenix’s four most recent home games, including that Seattle game, the Mercury have scored at least 90 points. They beat the Atlanta Dream by 20 and the Washington Mystics by 19, and on Thursday, they beat the Connecticut Sun, the league’s third-best team, 90-84.

In the win over the Sun, Phoenix was especially good, at least for the first quarter. The team shot 16-of-17 (94%) from the field in the period to score a WNBA-record 45 points in a quarter.

“It was crazy,” Mercury center Brittney Griner said. “I didn’t really realize it until [Michaela Onyenwere] pointed it out on the bench. She was like, ‘We missed one shot. We’re shooting like 94% or something.’ … I looked up and I was like, ‘Wow.’ I was like, ‘That’s pretty cool.'”

The Mercury’s numbers at home this season are elevated nearly across the board compared with on the road. They are averaging 81.1 points per game at home, compared with 74.8 on the road. They are shooting 47.3% at home and 42.5% on the road. They average 31.6 rebounds per game at home and 29.7 on the road.

Defensively, Phoenix gives up 88.1 points per game on the road and 79.1 at home. It allows 45.6% shooting on the road but 41.6% at home.


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Why are the numbers so much better at home? Mercury interim head coach Nikki Blue pointed to Phoenix’s fanbase, dubbed the X-Factor. Despite their 9-20 overall record, the Mercury rank third in the WNBA in attendance this season, averaging 8,671 fans per home contest.

“They show up and show out every single game,” Blue said. “Win or loss, they’re coming the next game. It’s really great for our players to come out the tunnel and to hear the fans say, ‘Hey, you got this,’ and they’re super encouraging for us. And then throughout the game when we make a good play, the crowd is roaring and you can just feel the electricity and the energy. So that, in addition to our players locking in a little bit more, I think it attributes to us winning at home more.”


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Now, Phoenix heads on the road for a rematch with the Storm on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET (3 p.m. PT). Blue discussed what her team needs to do to get its first road win since she took over as interim head coach on June 25.

“Other than to try to get the X-Factor to travel with us, Seattle has beat us three times,” Blue said. “They have our number this year. Last year, we swept them — beat them four times. So I think our focus and our mindset going into this game is we have to go in there and take care of business and not mess around. Get stops defensively. Try to shoot well offensively.”

Written by Jesse Morrison

Jesse Morrison covers the Phoenix Mercury for The Next. A native of Roanoke, Va., Jesse moved to Arizona in 2017 to attend the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, graduating in 2021 with a degree in sports journalism. Outside of The Next, Jesse works for Arizona Sports, co-hosting an Arizona State podcast, producing a radio show and writing for their website.

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