Mercury Notebook: Recent Slow Starts Costing Mercury

By Matt Paulson,
July 10, 2008

Although the Mercury were able to rally Tuesday to defeat Houston, a disheartening trend has developed since their four-game winning streak was snapped Saturday by New York.

Phoenix, which relies on running other teams out of the gym, has been slow out of the starting blocks the last three games and that is a major reason why it is just 1-2 over that span.

During their winning streak, the Mercury outscored their opponents by an average of 24-21 in the first quarter and never trailed going into the second. Over the last three games, however, Phoenix has been behind at the end of one each time, and has been outscored by an average of 30-22.

In Saturday’s game against New York and Sunday’s game at Los Angeles, the Mercury were never able to overcome their slow start. Against the Comets, they didn’t have a lead until 6:04 remained in the third.

“We just have to come out stronger,” guard Diana Taurasi said. “It’s hard coming from behind every game. It takes a lot of energy. Sometimes if you play great in the last quarter and a half, it’s not enough.”


The offensive rebound Le’coe Willingham grabbed Tuesday which preceded Taurasi’s game winning 3-pointer could have easily been predicted given that she is tied for third in the league in that category.

Predicting a missed free throw by Cappie Pondexter — a career 83 percent shooter — is a little more difficult, but that’s exactly what Willingham said she did.

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“The entire time I was standing there, I was like, 'It’s coming off to me,’” Willingham said.

Her anticipation paid a large dividend for the Mercury and produced the latest of many big boards Willingham has come up with this season.

Blossoming in her first year as a starter, the 27-year-old is averaging 6.6 rebounds per game, 13th in the league, and nearly half (3.1) have come on the offensive end.

As good as Willingham has been, though, Pondexter believes she has the potential to be even better.

“She’s great on the offensive boards,” Pondexter said. “She has to realize that and put it like, 'This is what I do.’ If she does that, who is going to stop her?

“She could get 10 rebounds a game easy. We have to keep encouraging her to do that.”


While Taurasi acknowledged that becoming the fastest player in league history to score 3,000 points — she did it in 151 games — is a nice record to hold, it’s not one she thinks will last very long.

“It’s a cool little record, but I’m sure Cappie will break it,” she said.

If Pondexter is to do so, she will have to increase her scoring average just a little. Through 79 career games, Pondexter has 1,523 points for an average of 19.3, fifth highest in league history.

At that pace though, Pondexter won’t reach 3,000 points until her 156th game.

Taurasi’s career scoring average of 20 is third best in league history.

COPYRIGHT 2008, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.