The Phoenix Mercury has been fighting for their playoff lives the last month, with only three games remaining in the regular season and six teams fighting for the last three spots in the seeding.
The 2022 season has been a roller-coaster type of season, and the lineup continues to change as the team goes through injury adversity along with the loss of their star center Britney Griner for the season.
On the road, the Mercury has been a very different team from an execution standpoint, as the team is the second worse in the league at 4-14.
Returning to the Foot Print Center on Saturday night after three straight road losses, Phoenix gets an important win 76-62 over the surging New York Liberty.
Star players Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggings-Smith were out of this contest, leaving the Mercury with a lowly eight-player rotation.
Diggins-Smith and Taurasi are at least 45% of the team scoring load on a nightly basis, so coming into tonight’s game shorthanded, the question would be who will carry the load enough to win a very important game.
That answer would come from Guard Diamond DeShields who is coming off a hip injury in her second game back, and in the first quarter, she held the team on her back scoring 14 points.
DeShields finished the half with 22 points and four rebounds, she was unstoppable going to the rim drawing and-one fouls with her aggressiveness.
The best play by Diamond was a shake to the right, dribble behind the back and change direction to the left, and slip inside between two defenders going into a sweet fade-away bucket drawing the foul in the process.
Diamond would go on to finish the game with 25 points and eight rebounds and later would say she was a little winded after coming back from her injury.
The second scoring would be vital after getting off to a great start and maintaining the lead would not be easy with the scoring punch of two-star players.
DeShields got help in the second half from point guard Shay Peddy and sharpshooter Sophie Cunningham, who combined to add 38 points and 15 rebounds, and both were excellent on the defensive end as well.
All the starters logged 30 plus minutes on the night and did a great job at guarding Liberty star guard Sabrina Lonescu making it a difficult evening for her to get in a good rhythm.
The big win puts the Mercury back in the 8th seed spot for now with three games remaining on the schedule, and the good thing is that all three games are at home in the Foot Print Center.
A very close race down the stretch of the season and every game will feel like a playoff game.
The 76-62 win over the Liberty gives the Mercury the tiebreaker and the Linx and Wings the next two games are certainly winnable games to help cement a spot in the playoffs.
The status of both star players Taurasi and Diggins-Smith are up in the air to finish the season, and coach Nygaard said of Diana “We held her out as a precaution, but she wanted to play, she was into the game and almost got a technical from the bench”
Certainly, a playoff run is unrealistic without the aid of both star guards, but this win keeps them afloat, beating the team that was ahead of them before the night began.