It’s win or walk on Thursday after cold-shooting loss

Season on Brink

By Mark Heller,
Sept. 12, 2007

Pick a player, any player in the Mercury locker room, and the faces told their tale far more than any of their words.

This was their chance to climb higher in this bestof-five WNBA Finals — at home — and make Thursday a potential champagnepopper.

Instead, it’s a season on the brink. Tuesday’s Game 3 became a 2 1/2-hour taunting session, as the Mercury couldn’t shoot themselves straight in an 88-83 loss to Detroit at US Airways Center, leaving themselves with a win-or-walk game Thursday night.

Again and again, the announced crowd of 12,000 was ready to roar, but Phoenix couldn’t hit the broad side of the desert.

The Mercury shot a season-low 34.7 percent, and their 5-for-31 night from outside, combined with 10 missed free throws, made it as tough to watch as it was to play through.

It was the angriest dressing room of the season, not because of their effort (no concerns there), but because they experienced their worst shooting night of the season on what could

“We played our (behind) off,” forward Tangela Smith said. “They didn’t beat us. We lost the game.”

Diana Taurasi didn’t hide her anger toward Detroit’s Plenette Pierson, who appeared to elbow Penny Taylor in the game’s final seconds. Taylor was left with a painful mouth while Taurasi sought out WNBA officials to have the play reviewed.

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What, if anything, becomes of the incident remains to be seen, but the Mercury wouldn’t mind chucking Tuesday’s game tape to the cactuses.

“Same looks we had from the last game that we made,” Taylor said.

Thanks to free throws and late offensive rebounding, the Mercury never left Detroit alone. They only trailed by five points at halftime and were within two possessions the entire second half.

Phoenix took six shots during one possession midway through the fourth quarter but missed all six.

“We were open a lot, and they were shots we normally hit,” point guard Kelly Miller said. “We still had chances to win even though we didn’t play well.

“We have to regroup.”

The Mercury were the aggressors for most of the game, slashing to the basket and getting to the line, but they missed 10 free throws.

Then they shot 15 percent in the fourth quarter (0-for-11 from outside), and a terrific night on the boards was blown away.

Katie Smith and Deanna Nolan (42 combined points) each scored 13 in the fourth quarter for Detroit, while Taurasi (22 points), Smith (17 points, 12 rebounds), Taylor (16 points, 14 rebounds) and Cappie Pondexter shot a combined 9-for-29 in the second half.

Five times in the final five minutes, Phoenix was within one possession but never forged a tie. “We gave them every opportunity to get back in the game,” Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said.

Phoenix kept firing, but the rim kept clanging, and now their season is dangling.

“Win or lose we’re going to come with the same attitude, come ready to go,” Taurasi said. “We lose, we go home. If you want to be champions, it’s not supposed to be easy.”

COPYRIGHT 2007, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.