Mercury Sticking With Plan

By Mark Heller,
Sept. 13, 2007

Sore and stirred, for sure, but the Mercury showed no signs of being shaken by Tuesday night’s shooting swoon in their Game 3 loss to Detroit in the WNBA Finals.

A loss tonight in Game 4 at US Airways Center would be the fatal puncture to their season. A win sends them back to the Motor City for one more attempted hurrah in a deciding Game 5.

No grand experiments coming. No chucking the game plans of the previous 41 games. Just two major points of order:

More running, and more shooting.

The Mercury are a team that has lived, and, Tuesday night, died by their shooting.

As the Mercury’s theory went Wednesday, their performance in Game 3 — the 5-for-31 outside shooting, six empty shots in one possession, missed free throws — won’t stick around.

“We’re a baseball team with a bunch of hitters,” Mercury coach Paul Westhead said. “We’re going to come out swinging.”

For more coverage of Phoenix sports,
be sure to visit

Westhead didn’t mean that literally, especially in the wake of a last-second altercation between Penny Taylor and Detroit’s Plenette Pierson, in which elbows — and possibly more – were exchanged.

Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter have also jawed with their physical opponents from the East.

“The personalities on this team aren’t going to back down from anything,” Taylor said. “We’re not going to be bullied around.”

And yet, beyond the sore bodies was some tomfoolery and relaxation, a disposition similar to what they showed after their narrow loss in Game 1.

Will such a scenario repeat itself? Who knows. But the players repeatedly spoke of their open looks and, given the same opportunities, figure their 37 percent shooting from Tuesday can’t happen again.

Westhead never talked to his players about the need to relax or keep their collective chins up following Tuesday’s psychological letdown. He didn’t feel the need to.

“At this stage, I call on them to collect their positive energy,” Westhead said. “We don’t fret about a game or get uptight. You don’t need to be.”

Neither did his players. They’ve selfpoliced themselves this far.

“There comes a certain point in high school and college where the yelling and fussing, you get tired of it,” Pondexter said.

Yelling or prodding wouldn’t have made a few extra shots swish in Game 3, and it won’t in Game 4.

Given the Mercury’s second-half surge during the season and (until now) faster run through the playoffs, Phoenix knows of one way to approach elimination: Scoot-and-shoot.

“We know what it takes,” Pondexter said. ”We’re going to give all we have. We have no choice. We want to be defined as a fighting team. No matter what. Win or lose.”

COPYRIGHT 2007, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.