AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Sept. 16, 2007 -- The Mercury escaped from Phoenix with a split after a hard-fought Cappie Pondexter-led triumph in Game 4 on Thursday. But coming to Detroit for a winner-take-all Game 5 against the defending champs? Well, it seemed like a tall task, especially given the Mercury's recent offensive struggles.
But Game 5 was a different story, as the Mercury led from the get-go and scored
a playoff-high 108 points to top the Shock and earn the franchise's first WNBA
title. We spoke with the experts after the game to get their take on what happened.
What happened: Phoenix did what they've done all season long, running and gunning and shooting well from all over the court. It's a style of play that has proven successful here in the WNBA, and the Suns play much the same way in the NBA. You can win by hitting threes, running the court and playing a wide-open, entertaining style of ball.
I don't want to take anything away from Phoenix, but I am placing some blame on Detroit. I think they came out flat. In Game 2 at home with a chance to put a stranglehold on this series, they didn't do it and showed up flat. Today, in the championship game, they show up flat.
I understand all of the injury issues with Cheryl Ford and Deanna Nolan, even the black eye on Katie Smith, but there are no excuses. It's Game 5. Bill Laimbeer is not going to sleep for three days because of the way his ladies played in Games 2 and 5.
Penny Taylor was huge for Phoenix tonight with 30 to lead the way. She had one field goal and six points in Game 4, but they still won. And you had to figure on a big bounce-back game from her. She's an intangible player, she's a glue player, and you can't win without players like Penny Taylor. She's not physically imposing, her jump shot doesn't wow you, her defense isn't spectacular. But she's a worker and a grinder who gets it done. She was the World Championships MVP last year, so you know she loves these types of situations. I love her game.
With Cappie Pondexter, it was much the same story as Game 4. She didn't have
a remarkable first half, but in the second half, she just decided to start busting
people. I wondered where she was during the first few games of the series. She
had her points, but they were quiet. But these last two games, she has scored
some LOUD points. She has taken over games like only she can. If she's not the
MVP, I'm missing something.
What happened: Phoenix was able to play the game that got them here. Getting off to a great start tonight was such a crucial thing, and Diana and Cappie got off to such a hot start that it gave the rest of the team confidence. If those guys miss those six or seven early shots, Phoenix is down six or seven points and it's a totally different game. But with the early lead, the Mercury settled into a really relaxed mode, and I just thought they played a beautiful basketball game in all aspects.
I don't think the Shock came out attacking the way they have in previous games. If they had started the game playing the way they did when they were down 19, they would have been a lot better off. It took them a long time to become the aggressive team they usually are. When you're playing for a championship, you have to knock the other guy out right away.
Tonight, though, these young kids from Phoenix they just had too much perimeter offense on the floor. It reminded me of the old Houston Comets with Cooper, Swoopes and Tina Thompson. They put so much pressure on you with their offense, that that became their defense. The Phoenix Mercury do the same thing. Cappie, Diana and Penny Taylor put so much pressure on you, you get so caught up in their offense, that it almost takes away the need to play a lot of tough defense
What happened: I said after Game 4 that the Mercury really didn't play that well offensively in the two games in Phoenix. And Penny Taylor is such a key to their offense, and she stepped up in a big way tonight, leading the team in scoring. I said to myself before the game even started that if Penny has a big game tonight, they're going to be hard to beat.
I was surprised that Detroit, the defending champions, didn't come out a little bit stronger tonight. Detroit is known for its attitude, and I just didn't see it out there as much as usual. I was also surprised that Cheryl Ford played at all. But it's Game 5, it's the last game of the year and she's a real competitor and a tough girl.
Cappie has stepped up all season long for the Mercury and every player on this team will tell you that she's their leader out on the court and that she's the one they go to when they need a big bucket. She's just in her second year, but she played like a veteran today.
What happened: Phoenix did what they did all season. That was their game. That was the Phoenix team we competed against in the Western Conference Finals. They shot the ball so well today, they got timely hoops, Penny Taylor really set a tone and Pondexter was exceptional in the second half.
What Detroit will look back and feel bad about is Game 4 Thursday in Phoenix. They felt like that was their opportunity to close things out. With a team like the Mercury, you're playing with fire, and Detroit knew the Phoenix offense had struggled at home and would probably find the basket eventually. And they sure did tonight.