The New York Liberty did not stand a chance against the Phoenix Mercury in Saturday's contest. The four-game winning streak the Liberty carried into the game did not matter because the Mercury could do the Liberty 10 better by mentioning that they were currently on a 14-game winning streak. Nor did the Liberty's turnaround that has made the second half of their season a lot more meaningful than it appeared it would ever be considering how poor the Liberty's start to the season was mean much in Saturday's game because the Mercury have never needed a turnaround this season. From the very beginning of the 2014 campaign, it has been clear that the Mercury are not just head and shoulders above the rest of the WNBA on a nightly basis, but that they might very well be so far ahead of their opponents that we would be better off discussing their superiority in terms of light years.
So the Liberty were so clearly overmatched by the Mercury, their only hope was to make the game a competitive one and avoid getting completely run out of the gym by an opponent that did not need to play its best in order to defeat the Liberty. It was a hope that was realized for the most part as the Liberty at least succeeded in remaining within 15 points of the unquestionably most dominant team in the WNBA; when the final horn sounded, the Liberty must have looked with relief at the scoreboard and seen that their final deficit was only a 78-63 one.
Because it could have been much worse, and in fact, it looked like it was going to be a complete decimation of the Liberty at the hands of the Mercury. After the Liberty managed to hang with the Mercury in the first quarter, trailing by just six points at the end of the 10-minute period, Phoenix demonstrated what true efficiency looks like in the second quarter when they blew the doors off the game by building a 17-point lead by the conclusion of the first half; in the second quarter, the Mercury converted on 10-of-16 from the field in a flurry of offensive efficiency that the Liberty could never dream of matching. Not even the Mercury's five turnovers in the second quarter kept them from establishing their supremacy.
The Mercury eased up a little bit in the third quarter, opening the door for the Liberty to make an inevitably doomed effort to wrest the game away from the Mercury while the Mercury were doing a bit of lollygagging on both ends of the floor. The Liberty would chip away at the Mercury's lead until they were only trailing by seven points, but that was as close as they would get as even their best in the game was nowhere near efficient enough to actually topple the Mercury. And it only took the Mercury a few minutes to re-construct an unassailable double-digit lead, as they stretched out their lead easily against their inferior opponent.
With 3:11 left to go in the contest, the Liberty finally conceded the obvious fact that they had no hopes of knocking off the Mercury by substituting out Tina Charles and Cappie Pondexter, who both struggled so mightily in the game that their presence on the court did not actually prove to be much of a benefit to the Liberty's pipe dream of winning; during Charles's time on the court, the Liberty were outscored by 18 points and when Pondexter was on the floor, the Liberty were 12 points worse than the Mercury.
For the Liberty, their loss on Saturday does not reflect on their talent level nor can it be used to predict how they will play in future games. The Mercury are so good that games against them must be treated as anomalies, and the true test of if the Liberty will continue to make noise in the WNBA will be how they perform against the rest of the teams on their schedule and not how they fare against the Mercury.