Top 10 Reasons Why the Mercury Will Win It All

By Stefan Swiat,
Posted: Sept. 13, 2007

The Mercury squeaked out a 77-76 Game 4 victory over the Shock on Thursday, setting up a decisive Game 5 showdown in Detroit on Sunday. Using their underrated defensive prowess, the Mercury were able to get stops down the stretch and escape with a win, despite their lowest point total of the Finals.

By pulling out such an uncharacteristic triumph, it would seem that the momentum has swung back in favor of the Mercury as they attempt to dethrone the current WNBA Champions. Here are 10 reasons why the Merc are going to bring the title back to Phoenix:

1. Cheryl Ford looks unlikely to play in Game 5.
After missing Game 1 of the series with an injured knee, Ford re-injured the knee late in the fourth quarter of Game 4. Averaging over 10 rebounds a game for the series, Ford's absence will diminish Detroit's advantage on the glass, giving the Mercury a boost in an area in which they sometimes lack.

2. The Mercury haven't shot the ball well at all.
In Game 4, they shot 38 percent from the floor compared to the Shock's 48 percent shooting, and 35 percent from behind the arc in contrast to Detroit's 50 percent clip. In Game 3, the Mercury shot 35 percent from the floor and 16 percent from 3-point land, while the Shock shot 44 percent from the field as well as from deep. Phoenix's shooting performance tied its worst effort since Coach Paul Westhead took over as head coach. During the regular season, the Mercury shot 43 percent from the field and 38 percent from downtown, so one has to think that they are overdue.

3. Penny Taylor had her worst game in recent memory, and the Mercury still won.
Taylor shot 1-of-11 from the floor and totaled three turnovers and six points in Game 4. There is no chance that the First-Team All-WNBA forward duplicates that performance. Look for a big turnaround from her in Game 5, especially if Ford isn't in the lineup to guard her.

4. The Shock left the floor without shaking hands with the Mercury after Game 4.
Reminiscent of Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the early 1990's, who had to overcome the Pistons to reach the promise land, the Bulls also dealt with a Detroit club that refused to shake hands when they lost. Ultimately, it signaled the demise of their reign as the best team in the NBA, and the Bulls went on to become a dynasty. Could Diana Taurasi lead her squad over a similarly hard-nosed Detroit team in the way that His Airness once did? Only Bill Laimbeer will be able to tell us for certain.

5. The Mercury haven't scored 90 points in two games.
After averaging 96 points per night during the regular season, and scoring 100 points eight times during that span, the Mercury have only hit the century mark once in this series. In fact, before Game 3, Phoenix had scored at least 95 points in every postseason game. As in blackjack, the law of averages says that the numbers will always even out. Consider it a sure bet that the Mercury will score at least 90 points on Sunday.

6. Diana Taurasi will not be denied.
She has figured out the Shock. She got off to a rocky start in Game 1, but since then she has scored 30, 22 and 20 points, while shooting the ball extremely well. Katie Smith, who is regarded as maybe the best on-the-ball defender in the league, hasn't been able to slow Taurasi one bit. Taurasi is getting to the spots on the floor where she can maneuver, and has thrived against Detroit's usually stingy defense.

7. The Mercury beat the Shock at their own game.
Coaches that play a certain controlled style like Detroit, usually tell their team that if they keep a high-scoring team like Phoenix under 80 points, victory is certain. So for a team like Detroit to be upended by a team that tries to break the scoreboard, it has to be a little disconcerting.

8. The Mercury have more All-Stars.
Taurasi and Taylor were both First-Team All-WNBA, while Cappie Pondexter made the All-Star team. Detroit counters with First-Team All-WNBA Deanna Nolan, as well as All-Star Kara Braxton. But it looks pretty certain that their third All-Star, Cheryl Ford, will have to miss the game due to injury. Down the stretch, big-time players make big plays, and the Mercury have one more go-to-gal than the Shock. The edge goes to Phoenix.

9. Phoenix will be the aggressor.
Throughout the series, the Mercury have just kept coming at the Shock, despite whether they are making or missing. Due to the offensive pressure they have put on the Shock, they have been able to be on the favorable side of the whistle. Phoenix has gone to the line more than Detroit over the course of the series, and except for Game 1, when the Mercury had to foul a lot to catch up in the closing minutes, has fouled roughly the same amount as Detroit. But in the last two contests, the Mercury have begun to pull further and further away from the Shock in that category, giving reason to believe that they will be rewarded for their attacking style in Game 5. Even before the series, basketball guru Ann Myers Drysdale wrote that putting the Shock in foul trouble would be the key to the series.

10. The Mercury are a better team.
Over their last 28 games, the Mercury have compiled the best record and winning percentage during that period. More times than not, the best team wins over the course of a five-game series. And in case you missed it, that team has a Phoenix zip code.