Mercury Notebook: Phoenix Eyeing Fourth Place
July 22, 2008
Due to their 0-4 start, the Mercury have been playing catch-up in the standings all season.
They’re tied with Houston for the worst record in the West (11-12), but by the time they return home from a quick two-game trip this week, fourth place could be in their grasp.
Phoenix makes stops at Houston (today) and Sacramento (Thursday), two of the teams it is in contention with for the final playoff spot. And if all goes well, it could have the inside track on the West’s fourth postseason seed by Thursday night.
To make the jump in the standings, the defending champions will have to sweep their road trip, and fifth-place Minnesota, which hosts Seattle today and visits Indiana on Thursday, will have to lose at least one of its next two.
If that scenario plays out, Phoenix will at least be tied for fourth. The Mercury then return home for a pair of very winnable games before the month-long break for the Olympics. They host Seattle, which is without Lauren Jackson (Olympic preparation), and Indiana, a team that has hovered around .500 most of the season.
“We have to end on a positive note,” guard Diana Taurasi said. “I think that’s the most important thing.”
After the break, the Mercury will have seven games to make a final push.
A spectator for every game this season except for the three against expansion Atlanta (including preseason), rookie Brook Smith made a splash with her latest opportunity.
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Her scoring outburst, which came in the fourth quarter with the game already long decided, didn’t go unnoticed by coach Corey Gaines, who said he’d like to get her more playing time.
“Brook does it every day in practice. I should probably give her some more time,” he said. “She can score. She’s probably our best post player with moves. She has a hook. She has a runner. She has an up-and-under (shot).”
PICKING UP THE PACE
While the 97 shot attempts Phoenix took Saturday shattered the previous mark for attempts in a regulation WNBA game (88), the Mercury weren’t overly impressed by their record-setting performance.
“Yeah, we used to average about 104 shots in college,” Gaines said of his one season at Layola Marymount playing under mentor Paul Westhead.
“That’s how we want to play,” Taurasi said nonchalantly. “That’s when we’re really good is when we run and we take a lot of shots and a lot of people get touches.”
All those attempts resulted in 110 points, the third highest total in team history and fourth highest in league history.
Cappie Pondexter was named the Western Conference Player of the Week after averaging 22.3 points, 5.3 assists and 5.0 rebounds while leading Phoenix to a 2-1 record. Pondexter joins Taurasi (three times) as Mercury players who have earned the honor this season.
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