It is a common cliché to say that a player makes their statements on the court, but that is exactly what Diana Taurasi did in game one of the playoffs. For the Phoenix Mercury (and Taurasi) the season started in Los Angeles against the Sparks.
That is not a slight on the regular season, but this team was put together with one goal: Win Championships.
Individual accolades come and go for elite like players Taurasi and Candace Parker every year. They are in their own rights MVP's every season for their respective teams just like Maya Moore, Elena Delle Donne, Sylvia Fowles, Angel McCoughtry, and every other former MVP candidate of years past. Greatness comes in all shapes and sizes there for it is not defined by a statue or an award, height or length, position, or requisite skill-set.
Earlier in the season Taurasi became the fifth leading scorer in WNBA history and moved up the Top 10 list in assists as well. Her reaction individual accolades was reminiscent of a child who does something great, but in their mind they just did something, but it was great at the end of the day. She hardly knows her greatness, but continues to churn out greatness nightly.
The portfolio continues to grow every game at this point for the now ten year veteran who has either consciously or nonchalantly has become a consensus MVP candidate every year as the masses have become numb to how great she is.
An MVP in some eyes is the best player statistically in the league in any given season. To others it is the most irreplaceable player on a good team. For the rest it is the best story of the season.
That is not something determined in a board room or from behind a laptop. It is determined on the court.
Everyone of those players are the best statistical player on their team. They are the most irreplaceable player on the roster and are a story in their own right.
Taurasi did just that in game one against the Sparks when she came out and set the tone for her teammates, for herself, and the complexity of the series. No player in the history of the WNBA has displayed the balance between scoring and distributing like Taurasi has this season and throughout her career.
Early on she set the tone with three assists in the first quarter making play-after-play-after-play for her team. Her aggressiveness made up for 58% of the Mercury offense in the half and kept them in the game.
In the second half she produced 46% of the team's offense switching gears becoming more of a scorer closing out the game with 20 points in the half.
The game was a statement. Taurasi went out, on the road, and outperformed the actual MVP with an MVP performance of her own closing out another playoff win taking her record in first round playoff games to a remarkable 9-2 overall.
On the court Taurasi makes her mark like a marksman from deep or threading the needle with accuracy on a pass to an open teammate.
Her presence is felt on the court. Her MVP credentials are put on full display every night with her play and how her influence played a major role in turning the Mercury from a 7 win laughing stock to 19 win legitimate contenders in the Western Conference. Other influences played a part in the teams' 12 win turnaround, but none with more value, or impact, than what Taurasi brings every night.
This individual performance was not a metaphorical fist to the chest saying, "look at me, I am the best," but a statement that this team is here to win a Championship. Taurasi is that Championship Engine.
The Mercury were not able to replace the impact of the best guard in the history of the WNBA last year when she was injured. They went from the Western Conference Finals to the No. 1 Overall pick without her. That was not the leagues definition of an MVP this year, but she surely was for the Phoenix Mercury.
Not to slight the regular season, but the Mercury's goal is to win a Championship and Taurasi's goal is to be the MVP of the season that matters. The post-season.