Mercury Have Been in This Situation Before

By Brad G. Faye, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: Sept. 25, 2009

Following an 87-76 loss to the Sparks on Friday night, the Mercury will again find themselves facing elimination at US Airways Center on Saturday in Game 3 against Los Angeles. But as they’ve proven already in this 2009 postseason, it is when their backs are against the wall that they perhaps play their best basketball.

“Experience always helps in these situations,” Mercury guard Cappie Pondexter said. “But the thing we need to realize is that right now it’s about this moment. The only thing that matters is the effort that myself and this team puts out tomorrow. Anybody can have experience, but when it comes down to competing and being in the moment, it’s about how bad you want it and your will against theirs.”

The Mercury have already proven a couple of times this postseason that they want it pretty bad. Against the Silver Stars in the Opening Round, the Mercury twice found themselves facing a win-or-go-home scenario after they dropped their first contest in San Antonio. In Game 2, Phoenix lit up their opponent in front of the home crowd and cruised to a 106-78 victory. Game 3 didn’t come nearly as easy, but ultimately found the Silver Stars running out of gas late.

As far as how things will play out on Saturday, Mercury Head Coach Corey Gaines said he knows his team will be geared up for the big game.

“I know we’ll be ready and running tomorrow,” he said during his postgame press conference. “We have to box out because those second chance shots really kill you. We have to push our wheel on them to make them go faster.”

While anything can happen in a winner-take-all game, one thing we do know is that Saturday’s contest will mark the first completion of a back-to-back set for the Mercury since September 2. Ironically, each of those two contests came against the two remaining teams in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference – Detroit and Indiana. The Mercury dropped the first game against the Shock in Detroit, but bounced back the next night for a 106-90 win against the Fever.

But as Le'coe Willingham stated after Friday’s loss, the last thing on the team’s mind right now is the fact that Saturday’s contest will be their second in as many nights.

“At this point that doesn’t matter,” the forward said. “All that matters at this point is taking care of business and doing what we need to do. We need to play our style of basketball and return to playing the type of basketball we know we’re capable of.”

Working in favor of the Mercury is that the opportunity to do that will come at home – something two of the team’s leaders both acknowledged following the game.

“We have Game 3 tomorrow at home so we can’t really ask for anything more,” Mercury All-Star Diana Taurasi said. “Basketball comes down to how many plays you make, we could talk X’s and O’s but at the end of the day it comes down to how many plays you make.”

Pondexter agreed, “We fought all season to have decisive games like this at home. We’ll be out there playing in front of our home crowd which is the way we want it. Los Angeles fought us hard today and we feel towards the end we were able to build some momentum to carry over into tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it.”