Taurasi, Pondexter take control in 4th

Mercury Snap 3-Game Losing Streak

By Mark Heller
June 8, 2007

Given the troubles of the past 10 days, Paul Westhead wasn’t about to be greedy. It wasn’t easy or smooth, but he’ll take the Mercury’s 80-66 victory against Chicago on Thursday night.

So, too, did his players. No questions asked.

Before an announced crowd of 6,161 at US Airways Center, the Mercury (5-4) won their first game in June and ended a threegame losing skid. The locker room took a collective exhale, and though they’re not out of the woods yet — a daunting trip to Sacramento on Saturday night awaits — another end is near.

Thursday night was the Mercury’s ninth game of the season, most in the league and more than twice as many as Los Angeles and Detroit.

To some players, it has felt like a grind for three weeks, especially since practice time has been scarce.

“It’s hard to go this way to start the season,” said Kelly Schumacher, who provided a 10-point, fourrebound jolt off the bench. “We’re doing a good job of managing this and that’s why I think we’re going to be a good team.”

Sour after a loss to lowly Minnesota on Tuesday, the Mercury couldn’t get in gear until the fourth quarter, when Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter charged toward the basket, and Penny Taylor and Schumacher did some dirty work.

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The fun-and-gun wasn’t there often, but the Mercury made 22 of 27 free throws and nearly drew Chicago to a draw rebounding.

Taylor scored 19 of her 21 points in the first half. She had been shooting 39 percent from the field this season until Thursday, when she made half her shots from behind the arc.

She also had 10 rebounds, took three charges and chased down a half-dozen loose balls.

What Taylor started, Taurasi and Pondexter finished. Pondexter fought through what she called a head-to-lip collision and poked eye for 18 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Taurasi, who went to the doctor Wednesday to look at her right leg, has appeared out of sync at times during the past couple games. But she drove to the basket and rebounded in the fourth quarter to help Phoenix stretch its lead to double digits.

“She started to take off the wraps,” Westhead said.

Pondexter put one on when her mouth was cut — but the team stopped its recent bleeding in the standings.

“Getting to the finals is an expectation we put on ourselves,” Taylor said. “We’re not looking that far ahead, but we don’t want to go through losing streaks and then have to drag our way out and hope like we have the past couple years.”

COPYRIGHT 2007, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.