The Phoenix Mercury players came out of the tunnel excited for the start of the new WNBA season. Every player and staff member was wearing black t-shirts with ‘BG’ in white letters. The t-shirts were honoring Brittney Griner, their very own Mercury player, who is currently in custody in Russia. Sophie Cunningham made a small opening speech about Griner, who all the players want back home in the US as soon as safely possible. The fans were cheering loud for all the Mercury players, as the names of the roster and starting lineup were announced.
Sam Thomas got a large applause from the crowd, as her name was announced. Thomas was signed to a training camp contract and made the final Mercury roster after finishing her college career at the University of Arizona this year. Her college coach, Adia Barnes, was courtside watching her WNBA debut and cheering her on, while wearing a Thomas jersey. The Las Vegas Aces had quite a strong fan base in the building for the match-up of these two West Coast teams.
Both squads made strong runs in postseason play and the matchup between the two teams always brings a lot of energy. A’ja Wilson of the Aces made the first basket of the night. The Mercury had a tough time offensively in the first half and didn’t find a way to stop the Aces; offensive runs. Tina Charles made the first basket for the Mercury but the Aces were already on a roll and forced the lead to 10 points early. The 1st quarter ended with a 14-point lead for the Aces at 31 – 17. The first half proved the Aces were too much to handle for the Mercury. The Mercury were still missing some key players from their roster and their absence was definitely felt. The half ended with another Aces lead of 54 – 32.
The Mercury answered to the Aces offense better in the second half but could not recover from the big lead the Aces formed in the first half. The final score of the game was 106 to 88, with the Aces taking the win. Skylar Diggins-Smith led her team in scoring, with 25 points. On the other end, every Aces player but one who hit the floor, scored. Three Aces players ended up with 20+ points by the end of the game: Jackie Young, Dearica Hamby, and Kelsey Plum.
Both teams showed out on their shoe and fit game, as well. The pregame fits of the players were even highlighted during a break in the game. Skylar Diggins-Smith wore the Puma MB.01 Galaxy shoes. The colors really popped on this pair and was one of my favorites of the game. Diana Taurasi wore the LeBron 19 ‘Black/Green Glow/Anthracite’ shoes.
A’ja Wilson wore her own player edition PE, the Nike Cosmic Unity ‘Generations’ PE. I spoke to A’ja after the game, to talk about why this PE is so special to her. “Anybody that knows me, knows that I am a family gal. When it came to my PE’s, just showing love to my grandmother and great to be called ‘Generations.’ I think it’s just something special. She is someone that has always been with me and if you know me, you know that’s my story. To have Nike bring it to life within a shoe, is special,” Wilson explained to me about the shoe. The PE is very special to Wilson and really honors her family, while she is on the court.
The WNBA opening night with the Mercury and the Aces was one to remember. The teams have gone through a lot of changes since last season and it will be interesting to see the journey they both go on, throughout the season.