WNBA rewatch: Dallas gets a lift from its South Carolina rookies for road win

It’s just one game but…Allisha Gray & Kaela Davis comfortable and confident in debuts as Wings top Mercury

via AP

No sweeping judgments stemming from this one. Brittney Griner picked up her 3rd foul with about 2:30 to go in the first half, hitting pause on her terrific start from the field. Stephanie Talbot was in first half foul trouble for Phoenix as well.

As we’ve come to expect, it didn’t take long for Diana Taurasi to get her home crowd going to kick off the season:

Kaela Davis, this year’s 10th overall pick, stood across from Taurasi for much of the night and wasn’t intimidated. Here she pulls up in transition going to her left, creating space with a small bump:

Allisha Gray, a teammate of Davis at South Carolina, got the start alongside Skylar Diggins-Smith in the back court. Here she attacked with her strong hand to get to the rim:

Note where Griner is on that play. Courtney Paris dealt with some foul trouble of her own in this one, but beginning in the 2nd with the insertion of Theresa Plaisance, the Stars began to see the driving lanes. The guards for Dallas attacked without fear, knowing Griner wouldn’t always be waiting on them at the rim with Plaisance (and Paris later on) spacing beyond the arc.

The pick and roll dominates many basketball discussions at all levels today. Running it is one thing — the Mercury will have plenty of success doing so with players like Tuarasi, Danielle Robinson and Leilani Mitchell. Players need to read the game too, and Camille Little’s decision to slip the screen here is a perfect example:

You can see pick and roll coming as Little runs toward Robinson. With her defender on her back, Little aborts that mission for the easy bucket cut and Robinson delivers a perfect bounce pass. The rest of the defense can’t react in time.

Little hit a three moments later to push Phoenix’s lead to 5. Dallas needed a response. Gray had one ready:

Davis added a bucket soon after to tie it up. Later in the quarter, Davis was a benefactor of one of the best breaks you can catch on a ball bouncing off somebody’s foot:

Coach Fred Williams clapped so fiercely, that ball had no choice but to stay in bounds. Davis scoops it up and finds Plaisance for two.

Diggins-Smith wasn’t having her best night. Dallas would need even more from their rookies. Davis tossed in a pretty floater over the top of Griner in the 4th:

That’s a big time play. First, Davis allows Paris to get all the way there to set a quality screen. She then hesitates on her drive to freeze Taurasi and see what Griner would do —this wasn’t the time for a head down, straight line drive. Griner dropped deeper as Davis hesitated, so she proceeds for the floater.

Davis didn’t over-penetrate. Do that against Griner and you’ll probably get your shot blocked. Dallas can’t just be pleased with this outcome — they ought to be thrilled to see Davis and Grey make so many big plays on the road this early in the season.

You saw that early Taurasi three. That was her only made field goal of the night. DT and Griner are fresh off their time overseas. The Mercury also have a new PG in Robinson. The Mercury will settle in with time.

Give credit to Dallas. They played much better in the second half, and did enough to slow Griner after that hot start. They didn’t send many hard doubles — Plaisance and Paris were able to lean on her enough to force her outside of the paint on their own some of the time.

On others, they showed enough help to encourage Griner to pass it back out, although they flirted with some defensive three seconds violations, as Taurasi attempted to point out to the officials:

(Taurasi is pointing at the Dallas defender under the basket. Forgive my poorly-timed screenshot.) Now look at that image again. Dallas was even willing to leave Taurasi to show Griner an extra body!

Final note: Leilani Mitchell is an important piece for Phoenix off the bench. She scored 8 in the second half, including a pair of triples, when Phoenix needed a lift. Fun fact: She shot 49% (!!!!) on 3s in 2010 for the Liberty on 148 attempts.

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