WNBA Finals - Practice Quotes, September 6, 2007

Detroit Shock

Plenette Pierson

On her play in Game One:
Pierson: “You know, we knew Cheryl was out, we had played like that all season. She’s been out most of the season and we wanted to give her some time to rest and didn’t want to put any pressure on her to come back and play too fast, so I just took it upon myself to attack people and get [Phoenix] in foul trouble and Kara Braxton and Katie Feenstra played their asses off.”

On Feenstra and Braxton in Game One:
Pierson: “They had two monster games. Katie didn’t get a lot of minutes, but while she was in she gave us great quality minutes. Kara, she showed us what she’s really capable of – at any given time she can change the outcome of a game or the look of a game by just being aggressive by just doing her move. She has all the talent and she applied it last night.

On beating Phoenix in Games Two and Three:
Pierson: “We are going to have to cut down our turnovers, most definitely. They are a team that thrives on turnovers. I think we did a great job on transition defense – keeping them from getting their fast break points but I think we need to keep them off the free throw line and stop fouling them as much.”

On playing a Phoenix-style tempo in Game One:
Pierson: “We thought we played great defense, but we scored 100 points and they scored 100 points. But, that’s going to happen. Teams are going to make shots – they’re going to make big shots, but its all about making the bigger shots and the bigger runs when it counts.

On what she needs to do in Game Two:
Pierson: “I need to come in with the same focus that I came in with during Game One and just play – do whatever the team needs me to do.”

Shannon Johnson

On being in the Finals:
Johnson: “It feels great. This is a great opportunity – to be part of the two teams that are left. Everybody starts out at the beginning of the season wanting to be here – that’s one of our goals, and as we played through the regular season, this is what we played for. And now that we’re in the Finals - it’s something that we wanted the whole time - it was one of our goals. The good thing about it is that we have some very awesome players on our team to help us get here.”

On what she brings to the team: Johnson: “I bring energy – energy whenever I’m out there. We have such great players, that I get in there as much of the time as I get in there and try to give a little extra push, give somebody a quick break. This is my first time coming off the bench, so it’s a role that I’ve had to adjust to this year, but I knew that coming in and Bill [Laimbeer] was very upfront with me and let me know when I came in, what he needed from me and that’s what I tried to provide.”

On Game One:
Johnson: “One thing that surprised me is how many points we scored – that’s a lot of points. But, we know that they can score – they’re very good scorers. But the thing about us is that we know we can score also; we just want to be able to stop them a little more. The first game was a chance to test each other and see what we were going to have for the rest of the series.”

On winning the series:
Johnson: “We have to stick with our game plan of forcing it inside, hitting open shots, and getting back in transition.”

Katie Smith

Thoughts on Game One:
Smith: “I’m happy to get a win, and glad to start off that way with home court. It kind of played out like it was, a high scoring ball game, I didn’t think our defense was great, I thought we executed so-so and didn’t necessarily shoot the ball real well, and turned it over too much, so there’s a lot of little things we can clean up, I think the next game’s going to be similar. I think that different people will be doing different things, and Diana will probably be in the game more and contribute more, off and on our team, we’ll get our flow together, and hopefully our bigs with have another big game in general just as a group. Rebounding will also be a key to do that well.”

On the high scores:
Smith: “We have no problem with that – we played them earlier in the season and scored a lot of points, and we don’t have a problem with getting up and down and taking a lot of shots, as long as we’re taking shots that we’re comfortable with. Obviously, the same amount of possessions they get we’ll get, but its just a matter of understanding the flow and not going down and taking bad shots, but understanding when to push and when not to. Whatever kind of style needs to be played, I think our team is pretty versatile and can do a little bit of whatever. I thought it was pretty normal, I have no idea how the next one will pan out – hopefully we just score more points than they do.

On being aggressive:
Smith: “They play a lot of zone, and zone can make you passive, and you have to be conscious of attacking, and getting the ball inside helped us get to the free throw line. And also just attacking their guards, cause zone, its loose and they like to reach a lot and try to slap the ball and they got a lot of turnovers, but you’ve got to attack them and still stay aggressive even though they’re playing an area and not necessarily a man. So we’re going to keep attacking them and just find ways to score whatever way we can.”

On her expectations for Game Two:
Smith: “Mostly for us, it’s just continue to rebound and not allow them to get second shots. They’re going take shots and they’re going hit shots, but not allow them to get any extra opportunities, especially with turnovers, and shoot with confidence and get the ball inside and have an inside presence. For them, adjustment wise, I imagine they’re going to still play zone, maybe try to take a way a little more of the inside game. But they’re still who they are and we’re still who we are and, honestly, I think they’re just going clean up their game plan and we’re going to clean up ours, but I don’t see the teams making major changes and changing their style or them playing man the whole game. It’s just kind of going out there and cleaning things up.”

Phoenix Mercury

Paul Westhead

On what he saw on the tape:
Westhead: “We’ve just got to make some adjustments and we’ll do well on Saturday.”

On whether he was surprised at the game’s outcome:
Westhead: “They were very effective in getting the ball inside.”

On how to win:
Westhead: “Don’t let them get the ball inside-- we’ll try to make some adjustments to make it more difficult.”

On Taurasi’s numerous fouls:
Westhead: “It’s never a good thing. I’m accustomed to it and she’s accustomed to it. I don’t anticipate that happening again, but it does impact our defensive coverage.”

Diana Taurasi

On mindset after Game One:
Taurasi: “As the great Ashley Valley (former UConn teammate) used to say, if you spill milk on the floor, you have to come back Saturday ready to play. I don’t think I slept all night. Whenever you play a game you just replay it in your mind a million times — all the plays, things you didn’t do well, things you did do well.”

“This isn’t the NCAA Tournament where you lose one game and you start crying. This is a long series. There are adjustments that you make, and then you come back the next day and prove if you are meant to be here. I think we are, so we’ll come back on Saturday and play a little bit better on both ends. It’s a five-game series. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. We’ll be confident and ready to go on Saturday.”

On Tangela Smith’s addition to the roster in 2007:
Taurasi: “I don’t think we could have found a better fit as far as Tangela’s skill-set, what she brings to the table every single day. She truly is a veteran presence that you need on any team. She has been through the mill. She’s been to the playoffs with Sacramento. She’s been an All-Star. She has been a steady force for us all year.”

On having so many offensive options on the roster:
Taurasi: “Trust me, you’d rather have a lot of talented people than not enough. In college, we always had an incredible amount of talent. On USA Basketball, it’s the same thing. Sometimes, you have to cut back your role to help the team. I think that has been the best thing about this team so far. We have four people on our team, Cappie, myself, Penny and Tangela, that can score 30 points on any night. That’s nice to have.”

On fouling out of Game One:
Taurasi: “That happens every once in a blue moon. You never want to be on the bench. When you’re on the bench, you can’t help your team. The only way you can really benefit from being a good player is being on the court. I just have to find a way to stay on the court. It won’t take away from my aggression because the minute you start being timid, your level of play comes down tremendously. When you’re not aggressive on the court, you might as well not even be out there.”

On the loss in Game Two:
Taurasi: “It was a healthy loss. We played hard. We played inspired basketball. Sometimes, things don’t go your way. When they don’t, you have to find a way to fix it.”

Kelly Miller

On Penny Taylor’s performance:
Miller: “I have great respect for her. She has really established herself in the WNBA as one of the best players and I am really happy for her.”

On the importance of rebounding:
Miller: “We’ve been struggling with that all year, but it is important for all five of us to rebound because that is our run game. This is something we are going to focus on.”

Kelly Mazzante

Thoughts on Game One:
Mazzante: “You know, some uncharacteristic things happened with our team – I think we still had a chance to win, though, and we are going to make some adjustments and go out there in Game Two.”

On the tempo of Game One:
Mazzante: “I think that there were definitely times when we weren’t playing the kind of basketball that we like to play. Detroit threw some things at us, and we just have to make adjustments to play the type of basketball that we like to play.”

On the differences between the bench in Game One:
Mazzante: “I think, obviously, Plenette [Pierson] came in and did a really great job. Kara Braxton came in and had a really great game. As far as out bench, I thought we needed to step up a little bit more especially with being in foul trouble – we know what we’re capable of doing, though, so we’re going to come in and do the things that we’re good at.

On changes for Game Two:
Mazzante: “I don’t think we need to make that many changes. Obviously we gave up too many points, so defensively we need to be more aggressive in our zone, but offensively we did a pretty good job. We attacked them, and we’re going to look to do that more.”

Cappie Pondexter

Thoughts on Game One:
Pondexter: “I think it was a competitive game – Detroit played really well. Throughout the course of the game, I think they were attacking, causing them to go to the free throw line a whole lot. Their pace kind of set the tone and the outcome of the game.”

On the second half:
Pondexter: “I think I was trying to be more assertive, I knew Diana was in foul trouble, so I was trying to attack a little bit more than I was doing in the first half.”

On adjustments for Game Two:
Pondexter: “I think we can definitely improve a lot more on the defensive end. I’ve seen us play our zone defense a whole lot better than what we did yesterday and I expect that in Game Two that we’ll definitely come out with a lot more pressure.”

On Detroit’s strategy:
Pondexter: “I think attacking, when they put a zone up that’s when we were put on our heels and we didn’t attack and set up for a lot of our shots. Though we are a jump shooting team we still attack and we didn’t do that a lot.”

Belinda Snell

On fellow Australian Lauren Jackson winning the WNBA MVP award:
Snell: “She had an outstanding season once again. I think it was one of the best season’s she has had over here. She dominated in nearly every category. She’s an amazing player. I love playing with her.

On Game One:
Snell: “It was disappointing to lose, but I think we’re going to bounce back on Saturday. We’ve got practice now and coach [Paul Westhead] will go through a few things we need to adjust and mix up. But I’m sure we can bounce back and do well on Saturday.”

On the differing styles of play:
Snell: “I think they went to the foul like 42 times and we only went about 18 times, so I think we need to attack them a lot more and obviously do a better job on the rebounds.”

On playing in an exciting game:
Snell: “We’re in the WNBA Finals; it’s exciting every game is exciting. It’s good to be here.”

On the comparison between the WNBA Finals and the Olympics:
Snell: “It’s different I guess. Playing in the Olympics, you’re representing your country and that is something I’ve always wanted to do and I love doing it. But playing here is a lot of fun, too. It’s the best league in the world and it’s always fun and challenging.”

Tangela Smith

On Game One:
Smith: “It is all on us right now because we just have to rebound by committee and whoever is in our area, since we do play the rover defense, we just need to make a better effort to put a body on those big girls – and we know we can do it. So, yes it was frustrating to do it, but this is a long series, a five game series, so we have enough time to just prepare for Saturday and just be ready to come out and get this win.”

On the match-up with The Shock:
Smith: “I mean it’s been like this all year round, this is not the first time that we’ve matched up against a team that is bigger than us, and basically everybody is bigger than us. We’ve won games when we’ve been out rebounded before, but we don’t want to look at it like that, we just want to go out there and do what we can and play aggressive because they are an aggressive team. I think that the most aggressive team gets the calls and we felt that they were more aggressive team yesterday and they got the calls, so we need to go out there and match their intensity.”

More on Game One:
Smith: “We felt like we didn’t play how we wanted to play yesterday and we only lost by eight, and really it was less than that because we were fouling at the end, and that just means that we can fix the little things that we need to fix and come out here and do what we need to do and play our game plan and don’t let them dictate the tempo. It was a high scoring game, we scored 100 points and we lost.”

On former Iowa and current Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer:
Smith: “I love Coach Stringer. That’s the main reason that I went to Iowa, I was really sad that she left. We still talk – though, her and Cappie [Pondexter] talk more than we do, but every time I see her we have a little chit chat, and she’s always encouraging me and supporting me and I appreciate that.”

Penny Taylor

On losing Game One:
Taylor: “It was tough. We came in and we felt like we were really prepared and ready to go. It’s the first game and maybe there are a few cobwebs to work out and some of the things we had focused on, we did do at stages in the game but maybe not as much as we would have liked, so that’s going to be a focus for the next game.”

On Detroit’s physical post play:
Taylor: “No surprises there. We were expecting to be physical and they were. We just have to find a way around – maybe not matching their physically because they’re a lot bigger than us and stronger, so we have to find ways to deny them the ball in there, blocking out definitely and not letting them get easy shots. Simple things that we’ve done throughout the season.”

On Detroit’s ability to get to the foul line:
Taylor: “they did go to the foul line a lot more than us. Yeah, I can’t really say why. Maybe we took a lot more jumpers than they did, so there is less opportunities for fouls there.”

On how she feels this morning:
Taylor: “I feel okay, a bit beaten up, but that is to be expected and that’s the way it’s been throughout the season. So I’m looking forward to running it out a bit and getting back into the next game.”

On the comparison between the WNBA Finals and the Olympics:
Taylor: “It’s different – totally different team, totally different style. The Olympics is something you prepare for for four years and this is something that, really it’s been seven years that I’ve been thinking about getting to this point. They’re both very high ranking moments in my career.”