After White House Visit, No More Funny Business For Mercury

By Matt Paulson,
June 24, 2008

After their awful performance Sunday against the New York Liberty, the Mercury were in need of a good laugh.

They got one courtesy of President Bush.

At the White House on Monday morning to be honored for winning the 2007 WNBA title, Phoenix players and personnel were fighting back laughter after the President mispronounced Diana Taurasi’s last name Ter-EE-see.

As they make the second stop on their five-game East Coast trip in Washington today, the Mercury can’t afford any more funny business.

One-third of the way through the season, Phoenix (4-7) finds itself two spots out of the playoff race and knows it won’t make up any ground without a winning road trip.

“Our goal is to be 3-2. Four and one would be great, but 3-2 is something we definitely need to get,” coach Corey Gaines said.

The Mercury also need to figure out quickly why their offense has such a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality.

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In victories, Phoenix is averaging 99.3 points, but it has scored less than 84 points in all of its losses with the exception of the season opener (94).

The Mercury appeared to find the rhythm that carried them to a title last season just before this trip, when they scored more than 100 points the previous two games. Gaines is confident his team can recapture that feeling despite Sunday’s 105-72 blowout, which he believes was simply an aberration.

Coming off an emotional overtime win Friday at home, and playing for the third time in five days after a cross-country flight, took its toll, Gaines said.

“We just didn’t have any energy. We were just tired, and they shot so well,” he said.

Phoenix will have to hope the Mystics aren’t nearly as accurate as the Liberty (54.3 percent), especially from long range.

Washington is the league’s top 3-pointing shooting team (39.2 percent) and that’s where the Mercury’s defense has been the most vulnerable of late. Opponents have hit 12, nine and 11 3s the last three games, respectively.

“We played zone, we played man, they shot well,” Gaines said. “Sometimes you’re out of luck.”

BONUS SHOT: Taurasi was named Western Conference Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks after averaging a league-high 28.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists on 57.4 percent shooting (27-of-47).

COPYRIGHT 2008, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.