Sprinting Toward the Finish Line

By Arash Azarmi, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: Sept. 1, 2009

With the win against the Connecticut Sun Saturday night, the Mercury is continuing its tradition of late-season stellar play. Over the last three seasons, the Mercury is a combined 16-3 in its last six games of the season. Forward Penny Taylor knows the significance of finishing the season on a high note.

“I think it’s really important,” said the Australian native. “We would like to go into the playoffs with a bit of momentum. That would give us a nice boost when we play our first game in the playoffs.”

The 2006 squad won its last seven games of the season, which tied the record for the most consecutive wins to end a season in WNBA history. Speaking of records, Phoenix is now three victories shy of the franchise record of 23 wins, set by the 2007 championship squad. That year the “Mighty Mercury” ended the regular season 23-11.

Here are some other impressive stats to impress your peers with. With the win tonight, Phoenix finished the month of August with a 6-3 (.667) record. Over the past three seasons, Phoenix is a combined 19-5 (.792) in August. In addition, since the inaugural season back in 1997 the Mercury are an astonishing 35-6 in the regular season when playing on a Saturday. That adds up to a winning percentage of a whopping 85 percent.

Spreading the wealth

Saturday night’s contest featured the WNBA’s top two teams in terms of assists. Phoenix leads the league with 18.3 assists per game, while Connecticut is a close second with 17.9 apg.

The matchup also showcased three players in the top ten in the league in assists per game. Representing the Mercury, Cappie Pondexter and Temeka Johnson are second and fourth, respectively. The Sun’s Lindsay Whalen sits at the seventh spot. The Mercury is a perfect 14-0 this season when dishing out more dimes than its opponent.

Pondexter keeps proving what kind of special player she is. Not only is she leading the Mercury in assists per game, but she is second on the team in points per game as well, all while playing the most minutes out of everyone on the team. It’s a no-brainer how important the 2007 WNBA Finals MVP is to the team. However, CP23 will be the first to downplay what her rankings are on the team. “Cap” is more focused on the big picture.

“Having all those stats is great and everything, but that’s not what I focus on,” Pondexter told PhoenixMercury.com. “We’re a team that’s going for a championship. We didn’t even make the playoffs last year, which is really bad because of the amount of talent we have on this team. But things are different this year. We’re the best team in the Western Conference, and hopefully, we’ll be declared the best team in the WNBA after playoffs are over.”

Mercury on fire behind the charity stripe

One of the numerous categories the Mercury lead the league in this season is free throw percentage. Phoenix came into the Saturday’s game shooting a red-hot 85 percent from the charity stripe.

Phoenix established themselves well at the free throw line against the Sun. The Mercury, who average almost 21 free throws per game, nearly doubled their average by going to the line 40 times. The team sank 33 of their free tosses, which put them below their usual average at 82.5 percent. However, Mercury Head Coach Corey Gaines wasn’t to upset about that fact.

“If we can get to the free throw line 40 times every game, I’ll be just fine with that,” said the second-year head coach.

If the Mercury’s hot shooting from behind the line continues, they’ll be on pace to break a record that transcends all professional basketball leagues in the country. Phoenix is on target to shoot better from the free throw line than any other team has in either the WNBA or NBA. The current record belongs to the 1989-90 Boston Celtics team who shot 83 percent from the line.