Record: 12-11 (2-0)
Place In Standings: Third
Points Per Game: 81.2 (73.5)
Points Against: 82.6 (61.5)
Andre 3000 calls himself "Three Stacks" by self appointment whereas Diana Taurasi doubled that off of pure talent, the grind of 291 career games, and over consistent greatness over 9,000 minutes of action. A lot of people call themselves the best as self adulation has become a favorite past time for the narcissistic world that is entertainment and athletics. Then again, some others are great because they are great.
An unassuming lay-up in the third quarter of a blowout win over the Tulsa Shock and Diana Taurasi makes history with 6,000 points.
Not just 6,000 points, but the fastest player in WNBA history to reach that goal and now just 1,288 points off of Tina Thompson, a mentor and idol for Taurasi, as the all-time leader in points scored. After the game Taurasi let out a sarcastic "YAY" for her individual accomplishment, but then revisited what really got her there, which were her teammates and her mentors.
"You don't get to 6,000 without great coaches, great teams, and great players around you," said Taurasi after the game. "You don't get there. You have to have great people around you every step of the way."
That was typical of Diana and also appropriate for her after this game in specific as she entered 14 points away from this accomplishment, but still paced herself in an effort for the team goal with 7 assists. She did not score her 14th point until midway through the third quarter as her team cruised to a win with balance on the offensive. Not the typical gunner performance that is seen when a player is on the precipice of a record.
Later this season the all-time leader in points comes to town as Taurasi is nipping at her heels, but their time together is a part of what fuels the greatness of Taurasi.
"Tina (Thompson) has been great," continued Taurasi. "I have known her since I was really young and the first thing with her was on the National Team in 2004 and we played a couple of years together in Russia. Tina and I have been through battles together, won Championships in Europe, Olympics, World Championships, and I have the utmost respect for Tina."
Now that Six Stacks is at this point, where does she go from here? Is there Seven Stacks in the near future? More...
"I'm not happy until I get to 10,000."
Let's get the grains of salt out of the way, because they exist. Like bread crumbs in an old tale that symbolized hope in a tough, nearly impossible situation, but sometimes they are just bread crumbs. The two wins although they showed strides on the end as a team, but they did it against a middle of the pack offensive team that were without their leading scorer and rebounder for six quarters.
Nearly every team wins the "coach killer game" after a coach is fired or "relieved of their duties." It is a natural reaction for the new coach to prove they are different (and belong) and for the players to show they can adapt (and win) with the new regime.
Two strong wins against the Shock are building blocks on something that is not a finished product, but the positive here is that the brick and mortar was just sitting off to the side all this time and now the team is learning how to use it.
Those are the grains of, well, whatever you want to use as the metaphor here.
Having said that, overall the team defense has improved. One of the more notable differences between the team for the first 21 games has been the teams switching. Through the first half of the season the team was consistently unable to defend all five players throughout a possession leaving one player open after switching and defending for 18-22 seconds.
Now they are moving better, tracking the shooters and cutters better, and finishing possessions with not only contesting shots, but forcing turnovers and shot-clock violations.
They held the Shock to roughly 14 points off of their normal season average with great effort. That is the difference. Their is more effort on the defensive end and as Brittney Griner told me, "we are all capable of all playing good D," and that is true for every professional. Defense is about effort, choice, and scheme. If the player has made the choice to give effort and the scheme calls for capitalizing on that, then a team can be good defensively.
Wednesday vs. Indiana Fever at 7 p.m. AZ Time
Saturday @ San Antonio Silver Stars at 5 p.m. AZ Time