Phoenix’s hot outside shooting sinks Detroit

Mercury Rout Leaves Shock in Awe

By Mark Heller,
Sept. 9, 2007

AUBURN HILLS, MICH. -- Tangela Smith pursed her lips and glanced toward her coach as she backpedaled. Another open shot given, and another open shot taken, another open shot made.

It was Smith’s second consecutive swish from outside, and nowhere near the last for the Mercury’s slender center.

Roaring and ready to go, the Mercury showed the kind of energy they promised would return following a loss to open the best-of-five series. They struck back big with a 98-70 victory against Detroit in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals, a margin of victory equal to the largest ever in a WNBA Finals.

Los Angeles also put a 28-point whupping on Charlotte in the 2001 series.

Now this series is tied at 1, as the Mercury earned their minimum expectation by splitting at The Palace.

Smith was pushed around with the rest of Phoenix in Game 1, but she was smooth outside and tougher inside against the bigger Shock. When she hit her first two 3-pointers of the day in the first quarter, Detroit was in trouble.

“Coach said when you hit two shots, you got to come out,” Smith said with a smile.

She did, but only after she pledged to hit three straight the next time.

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There was no next time. Midway through the third quarter, Phoenix had nothing left to fear. Smith’s back-toback 3-pointers concluded a string of six consecutive possessions in which the Mercury scored.

“She had a presence about her,” coach Paul Westhead said

. Torched by the Shock’s interior size in Game 1, the Mercury responded with quicker double teams inside, absorbed Detroit’s physicality and received 17 rebounds from the starting backcourt of Diana Taurasi and Kelly Miller. The Shock still won the battle on the boards, but nothing the Shock did mattered against Phoenix’s galloping, distributing and chucking of balls.

“When it’s like that, no one can stop us,” said guard Cappie Pondexter, who joined Smith with 18 points and added five assists.

Fouls left Taurasi a nonfactor in Game 1, but she and Kelly Miller (13 points, nine rebounds and five assists) came out shooting and swarming atop the Mercury’s defense, and set the tone for an afternoon of run-and-fun.

Taurasi’s 30 points led the way and her seven 3-pointers were a Finals record.

A 16-2 run to close the first half gave Phoenix a 48-32 lead, and, unlike a half-dozen other leads this year, the Mercury kept piling on after intermission.

“We just came out and played for playing,” Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said. “Turnovers again made us put our heads down and it was a blowout.”

This has happened before to Detroit. The Shock were embarrassed by 26 points in Game 1 of last year’s Finals against Sacramento, then came back to win the series.

“Coaches coached a bad game, we had wrong combinations our there sometimes, and then the players put their heads down and stopped playing.” Laimbeer said. “That can’t happen.

“ ... I expect us to come out the next game and play spectacular.”

The next game is Tuesday in Phoenix. The Mercury’s home-court surge is 6-1 since the All-Star break and Detroit is 0-6 away from home since Aug. 1.

Phoenix has no interest in returning to Detroit for Game 5, but the Mercury also know what Shock team lies ahead.

“(Shoot) I’d be mad,” Taurasi said. “After getting beat by 30, I’d be furious.”

COPYRIGHT 2007, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.