Mercury Preparing For Stretch Run

By Brad G. Faye, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: July 29, 2010

With just 10 games remaining in the Mercury schedule following Thursday night’s 110-92 win over the Minnesota Lynx, the team understands the importance of getting things in gear for the stretch run.

While the top seed in the Western Conference may be out of reach thanks to the amazing 21-2 record of the Seattle Storm, no other spot is secure at this point. The remaining five teams out West still all have a shot at the postseason with just three games separating the second-place Mercury and the fourth-place Los Angeles Sparks.

“I think the biggest goals right now are to remain in second place in the Western Conference and to try and get a win against Seattle before the playoffs come,” forward Candice Dupree said. “We just need to stay together and continue to find ways to improve as a team. We’re coming off a good road trip and want to keep it going.”

With so much still yet to be determined in the standings, new Mercury center Kara Braxton agreed that it’s important for the team to continue improving as they wrap up the regular season.

“We’re just looking to continue meshing on the court together and I think once I can get a few things down, I’m hoping I can only fit in with this team even more,” the All-Star said. “With the players we have here, I can only see us getting better from this point forward.”

Braxton, acquired via a trade on July 23, scored 20 points in her first home game as a member of the Mercury as the team improved to 11-13 on the season. Even with the win, however, the victory on Thursday by the San Antonio Silver Stars meant Phoenix was unable to put any additional separation between them and their third-seeded rival.

Perhaps no team better understands the importance of building momentum entering the postseason than the Mercury. In 2007, the team won its final five contests of the regular season en route to their first-ever WNBA title. When capturing its second championship two years later, the team emerged victorious in five of its last seven regular season games.

DUPREE DOIN’ IT FOR THE MERCURY

With the importance of having momentum fairly self explanatory for a team with the Mercury’s history, PhoenixMercury.com decided to take a look at player who appears to be rolling at the right time, Candice Dupree.

The forward was a key in the team’s recent three-game win streak, and in the two victories against the Tulsa Shock and Saturday’s win at Minnesota, averaged 27 points and nine rebounds per game.

“We don’t call any plays for her, with her it all comes in the flow of the game,” Mercury Head Coach Corey Gaines said of Dupree, who also blocked a pair of shots in each of the three contests. “She gets a lot of points off running the floor, getting put-backs and does a good job of working hard to get the easy stuff. The flow of the game really benefits players like (Dupree) and when we have it going, it makes it tough to stop us.”

On Thursday, Dupree still had it going as she pitched in 18 points and eight rebounds in a winning effort, and following the game credited her solid play to doing what she’s always done in her career, but finding ways to fit it into a new offense.

“I’m just comfortable out there and feel I’ve adjusted to the system,” Dupree said. “Crashing the boards and playing the kind of basketball that I know I’m capable of playing.”

PUPPY LOVE

Mercury fans who watched the team take on the Lynx in person on Thursday also had the opportunity to either adopt a dog or learn about all the services that are available to them and their families as dog owners. The night marked the team’s “4th Annual Dog Days of Summer!” event, which saw Dog Day vendors and Rescue groups offer their services to fans at discounted rates.

“It’s a very good way for people to come in and see what some of these dogs are about,” Banner dog therapist and Mercury fan Jeanette Sinohui said. “They can adopt a dog right here today or look at information about some of the dogs we have available before choosing one a bit later. You’ve got a great variety of people here in terms of people who already love dogs and people who maybe aren’t sure about dogs, but come here and maybe make the decision to adopt.”