Short-Handed Mercury Can't Keep Up With Sparks

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com

Playing with a shortened squad over the past eight games, this youthful Mercury team has managed to make some strides.

Three of the team’s seven wins have come in the last nine outings, a stretch that immediately followed 10 straight losses. Those three victories came against playoff teams: Connecticut, San Antonio and Seattle. Considering the Mercury won just four times in the season’s first 23 games, this progress has been encouraging.

Tonight, however, was a different story.

“We ran out of juice a little bit, and they kept on scoring,” Corey Gaines said after the game. “We hit a couple shots, and got some momentum going into it, but we just couldn’t stop their momentum. I could only play three starters per quarter, and had to play subs, and we kind of dropped off a little bit.”

Candice Dupree returned to the Mercury lineup tonight in Los Angeles, but a near triple-double from Candace Parker (26 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists) was too much for Phoenix tonight in a 101-76 Mercury loss to the Sparks, Phoenix’s last road game this season.

Phoenix cut it as close as eight points in the second half, but two immediate three-pointers from Candace Parker and Kristi Toliver extended the Sparks lead back to double-digits and the Mercury wasn’t able to recover.

DeWanna Bonner, not surprisingly, had another phenomenal game scoring 23 points, dishing out six assists and grabbing six boards. She may not get MVP consideration, but there is no doubt she should be on the short list for Most Improved Player.

“We made a couple turnovers,” said Bonner. “They were bad turnovers in transition, which led to their easy buckets. When you’re trying to come back on a team, you can’t afford turnovers.”

Krystal Thomas had another impressive outing posting a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds on 7-11 shooting.

The Mercury returns home Friday against league-leading Minnesota and Sunday against Seattle for its season finale. Sunday's tipoff is at noon and will be broadcast on ESPN2. The Mercury will wear pink uniforms in both games as part of the league's Breast Health Awareness initiative.