Short-Handed Mercury Falls to Sparks

By Ben York,

Playing its third game in four days, the Phoenix Mercury saw its third tipoff in a span of 65 hours today at home against the Los Angeles Sparks.

The grueling stretch started at 7 p.m. Saturday when the Mercury hosted the Atlanta Dream on the first night of a back-to-back (a game that extended into double overtime) making Sunday’s early 6 p.m. tipoff in Seattle even earlier.

The club then traveled to Seattle Sunday landing at 12:45 p.m. (just five hours before tipoff at Key Arena) and returned to Phoenix late Monday afternoon.

All in all, since 7 p.m. last Saturday, the Mercury has spent a little more than 10 hours on the court or in an airplane.

Thus, although the Mercury continued to play with heart and resilience, the affects of their whirlwind past few days were evident in their 90-71 loss to the Sparks this afternoon.

In the first half, the Mercury hung in the game in spite of shooting just over 30 percent from the floor and being out-rebounded 32-19. Down 44-36, Phoenix kept the game within reach. But double-doubles from Candace Parker (22 points, 14 rebounds), DeLisha Milton-Jones (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Nneka Ogwumike (11 points, 14 rebounds) ultimately propelled the Sparks to victory.

“We were in position,” Corey Gaines said about the Mercury’s rebounding deficit. “We just couldn’t put a body on them. They’re a long, good rebounding team and Nneka (Ogwumike) is very active, so that doesn’t help.”

The Mercury again played without Candice Dupree who is nursing a left knee injury that has kept her out for several weeks. With Nakia Sanford also not quite at full strength and Charde Houston sustaining a left knee injury in the second quarter (she will be re-evaluated this week), the Mercury was essentially down to just seven players.

“I just come in and try to give my team energy,” said Alexis Gray-Lawson on her role when the team is short-handed. “Lately, we’ve been lacking that. Everyone is going down. I’m just being aggressive, playing hard and being myself.”

On top of that, these were players who have each tallied nearly 100 total minutes of action in the last four days.

“It is definitely difficult when we’re playing with seven or eight players,” DeWanna Bonner said after the game. “We’re short-handed right now. Of course, we’re tired and kind of beat up. But we can’t use that as an excuse, they played a great game tonight and unfortunately we came up short.”


- US Airways Center hosted over 5,000 Phoenix-area camp kids today in its annual matinee game.

- Lynetta Kizer had an impressive six points and seven rebounds in just 19 minutes of play. More important was her impact on the defensive end of the floor coupled with her energy.

- Four Mercury players scored in double figures (Bonner – 14, Prahalis – 14, Thomas – 11, Gray-Lawson – 13).

- Sammy Prahalis led the Mercury with 14 points for her eighth double-digit scoring performance in the last 10 games (15.4 average, most among rookies in that span).

- The Mercury will host the Seattle Storm on Friday, July 13 at 7 p.m.