PHOENIX — Confetti streamed down from the ceiling, “We are the Champions” blared over the sound system, and if you closed your eyes you could almost pretend like the Phoenix Suns had just won their first ever championship at US Airways Center.
Yes, a lighting fast, top-notch shooting basketball team won a championship last night in Phoenix, and that of course was the Phoenix Mercury, who may be on their way to a WNBA dynasty after winning their second title in three years.
Fans went berserk all around me, and it was kind of a shock to see fans get so excited over anything that happens in the WNBA. The crowd was loud, the fans around me were living and dying with every shot, and dare I say it, Game 5 of the WNBA Finals was one exciting basketball game.
Of course there were no high-flying theatrics, but if you forget about that this was just a very high level basketball game with teams on both sides making tough clutch shot after tough clutch shot.
My experience with the Mercury this season did indeed start about five minutes into the first quarter (after scalping a pair of tickets for $15 total, which was much easier than I even imagined it would be), but from watching this game it seems pretty obvious that they play atrocious interior defense.
Diana Taurasi — the MVP of the Finals, the MVP of the regular season and the MVP of blowing a 0.17 BAC — is a 6-foot-nothing guard, and as special of a player as she is on the offensive end, Indiana’s bigs scored at will against her and other Mercury interior defenders.
Why bring this up on a night that should be solely dedicated to talking about a championship? It’s because I’m fascinated that a team with such a weak interior presence can run and shoot its way to a second championship in three years.
Does that remind anybody else of a certain NBA team with a weak interior presence that hopes to run and shoot its way to a championship one of these days?
In recent weeks, I’ve made the connection about the Mercury proving that a basketball team can win a championship in Seven Seconds or Less, so to speak, but now I wonder if that’s the difference between the men’s and women’s games. Speed and skill is the name of the game in women’s basketball, winning over size and muscle. As the Suns have found out in recent years, that’s not exactly the case in the NBA.
Still, I was overly impressed with the Mercury tonight. They made a play on offense every time they needed to, and Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter are stars’ stars.
I do certainly wonder if this year’s WNBA playoffs and WNBA Finals will spark a bit of a revival in the game.
Let’s be honest, the WNBA has been more than an afterthought pretty much since its inception to all but the most diehard of fans. But after seeing the Mercury sell out Game 5 (with a little help from the Suns’ captains) and Indiana’s fans come out in full force, it feels like the perception of the game is changing little by little.
Every day I go on Twitter there’s another NBA blogger or fan talking about how surprised they are that they like the WNBA as much as they do.
As I have written, I haven’t given a crap about the league since its inaugural season. But I had a really, really good time watching that championship. It was fun, exciting basketball that any basketball fan would enjoy.
Now it did certainly feel more than a bit strange to “celebrate” a championship won by a team I was just getting to know. The beauty of a championship — as Red Sox fans learned in 2004 and Suns fans will know one day — stems from the agony of defeat, being vindicated for all those excruciating losses after which you longed for this day.
Even the D-backs’ championship in 2001 felt like the greatest thing to ever happen after living and dying with that team for four years and watching every other team I’d ever loved lose its final game.
To all the fans of the Mighty Mercury, congratulations. You deserve this day in the sun.
As for all you Suns fans out there, know that one day the scene below could be yours.