Coach Paul Westhead: Well, it's a great feeling -- it's a great feeling. The players, I think, intentionally went straight at me with the champagne. The celebration was to see if we can get him. They've been trying to get me all season.
First I want to say I think it's a great series. Any time you're 2-2, I think it shows that both teams belong and could easily have won a championship.
We came out today and made shots, and you know, that's what we do. So when we make shots, we put ourselves in a great position to be on the top end, hard to beat when they're scoring like that.
You've got a ring from way back when, 1980. How does this compare?
Westhead: Believe it or not, I think there was more champagne for this one (laughing). At least my players 27 years ago didn't worry about getting me, you know, sprayed. These players they were gunning for me.
But it's a great feeling. I mean, to be honest, I was happy with one in a lifetime. You don't need multiple championships.
But this was very enjoyable. And mostly because I've gone on record, just this group has been a delight to coach. I mean, I've used the line from the song "Drift Away," and I sincerely mean it. I said it to them again, "Thanks for the joy that you've given me. This has been fun."
You told them that afterwards?
Westhead: I told them that afterwards. And you know, they just play so hard, they're such a team, a group. You know, we get different people helping us. Penny Taylor from Game 4 to Game 5, you wouldn't believe the change in her performance. She was spectacular.
Even after you won the game in Phoenix the other day, how much concern did you have coming back here to Detroit's home, playing with the crowd? How much concern was that for you?
Westhead: I wasn't like -- well, in a sense I was thrilled. Because there for a while, I didn't think we were ever going to get here. But once we had tied it up, to be honest, we didn't really care where we were going to then play.
We just wanted to exhibit our speed game, and try to get our break going. We knew it would be very difficult to play here. But you know, if you're going to win a championship, you have to win it somewhere. And you have to perform very well.
So I think when you get to Game 5, home court advantage almost disappears. It's a one-game, and hopefully the better team wins.
Can you just talk about Cappie's performance in the playoffs in general in this series, specifically?
Westhead: You know, it's really hard on our team to pick an MVP. We've been debating this all season.
You know, Penny Taylor certainly was our great performer throughout the season. We don't win anything without Diana Taurasi. Cappie Pondexter proves surely in the playoffs that she was the key player for us in all of the playoffs, especially this last series.
And I repeat again, if you were to ask our team, they'd probably say well, obviously, Kelly Miller's our MVP.
But back to Cappie, I mean, well deserved. I mean, she made every big basket in Game 4, and again today when in doubt, we just spread that court out and gave her the ball and said, "Hey, do your thing, girl." And she just breaks people down. She's a relentless offensive player who goes right at you. Well-deserved award on a team that had three or four other people that really were very valuable.
If I can just follow up: I was going to ask you about Miller. She's sort of an unsung hero on this team?
Westhead: Pardon me? Miller.
Westhead: Yeah, well, Kelly Miller, she's the point guard who runs our offense and makes us go fast. I think sometimes our players feel tired, but they say, Uh-oh, here goes Kelly with the ball. She will not let them slow down.
So she's the speed that keeps our fast break, and therefore open shots coming over and over again.
On being champions:
Kelly Miller: Itís unbelievable. Itís something that we worked hard for all season. Right now itís kind of surreal Ė I canít believe weíve done this Ė but this team really deserves it. Weíve worked really hard.
On thinking the Mercury would be here at the start of the season:
Miller: After last season I knew we had the potential. We came out strong at the end of the season and we continued to play like that and just improve and work together as a team. I knew we could be here Ė I really did have confidence that we could get here and itís exciting.
On being the first team to clinch on the road:
Miller: Thatís very exciting too since itís never been done, but I had confidence we could come in here and play a hard game and thatís what we did.
On the unselfishness of the Mercuryís:
Miller: This team is incredibly unselfish. Everyone can score, so that makes it hard to guard us and itís such a fun team to play with. Itís incredible.
Cappie, given how many of your teammates had great series, how did it feel to be named the MVP?
Cappie Pondexter: It feels great. But, you know, I know it came along with help from my teammates, and they did a great job just believing in me. I just, I don't know. Just giving me the confidence to go out there and play.
At what point did you guys realize that you were going to win the championship?
Penny Taylor: About a minute from the end. When they started subbing people out. They're such a good team that you can't count them out until the siren goes. Maybe a minute early.
But, yeah, I mean we were there, and we knew they could come back at any moment even though we had quite a lead the whole game.
Could this game have started any better that you guys shot over 70% in the first quarter and really set the tone there?
Diana Taurasi: Ever since I woke up Friday morning, I kept saying we're due to have a good game. I mean, four games that we played like crud for four games, really. In our opinion, after watching film after watching ourselves, and we didn't put it all together.
You know, just looking at the stat sheet, everything that we've focused on all year kind of came into play tonight. You know, 97% from the free-throw line, 52 from the floor, 100 points.
All the things that people said we couldn't do and win the championship, today was kind of full circle. And that doesn't come without these two playing like monsters today. Without Kelly Miller doing what she does. Without Kelly Mazzante coming off the bench and hitting three.
It was really nice for everything to come full circle and come together. Kind of like Coach had envisioned two years ago, so this was kind of a culmination all of that.
Can you put in perspective what this championship means to you?
Taylor: Yeah, it means a lot, because I've been playing in this league for seven years, and never gotten to this point, let alone won it. So it's huge. And it feels so much more better because I'm doing it with these girls. And the chemistry we have on our team is almost impossible to have in any situation in World Basketball. And you know, we have it, and we have the right people with the right attitudes, and we got the job done.
You've won titles in college, the Olympics, how does this compare to those?
Taurasi: This is sweet. I was talking to Penny in the locker room two months ago, we were 7-7, you know. Sitting, you know, at U.S. Airways thinking, Man, are we going to make the playoffs again? And there came a point in the season where we challenged each other, and really put the responsibility on each player to really play up to their potential every night.
You know, sometimes when you have great talent it doesn't always workout. But we found a way to maximize every little bit of talent we had. And we're just a tough team. You know, coming into the series, how are we going to match up with all this physicality. We're just as tough as anyone out there. And I think we proved it over the five games.
I know you guys are the top scorers, but I know you appreciate the efforts of Miller. Can you just, Diana, talk about her contributions maybe overlooked sometimes?
Taurasi: You know, I said it before. You've got the wheels and Penny, Cappie, myself and Tan, and then you've got Kelly Miller, And she's the motor. If the motor's not working, all the other pieces really don't count.
Like Coach said, I think we all take a lot of pride in Kelly Miller being, you know, the center of our team. She might not get a lot of credit, but in house, we know how much she means to us.
Yeah, Cappie, unlike Diana, you didn't win a championship in college?
Taurasi: Sorry, Cappie.
But you know, Tennessee kind of got you a few times there. But how does this feel to you to be able to do that, you know, after those disappointments?
Pondexter: It feels great. I'm happy right now. I know, you know, God, everything happens for a reason. And I'm right here sharing it with a UConn fellow. And then Penny, and the rest of these guys, so it's even better.
You know, it's like a long-time coming. It's something I've been waiting for, working hard for, and it's finally here. So I'm extremely happy.
First of all, it's been a pretty good 12 months for you. You won a gold medal in the World Championships?
Taurasi: Can we not mention that right now?
And also you said I'm not going to have another game like I did Thursday. And really came out and showed that from the beginning?
Taylor: Well, yeah, like I said earlier, it can't get much worse than that, and we won the game anyway, and that is the thing like Diana said, we haven't had great games, but we won games anyway.
That is purely the credit to the heart of this team. The determination. Even when it looks bad, we stick together and somehow find a way to get the job done, and we've done it all season.
I'm just so happy that we did it tonight also and the other question was? Oh, the Worlds. I mean, yeah, it's been a great year. What more can I ask for? The Worlds was unbelievable. And this is just as good.
Coach Bill Laimbeer: All right, well, this is an unfamiliar position. Not being up here with a bottle of champagne. It's the first time we've lost in the Finals. We know why we lost, too. And we got beat by a team who was hungrier, playing at the top of their game. And we weren't. And we lost. It's disappointing, but at the same time I'm proud of our group. Overcame a lot of adversity this year. Played through a lot of pain and other sorted things, and I'm very proud of them, what we got accomplished. Our goal remains the same every year to play in the Finals, and we accomplished that goal this year, and missed the player's chance to win the championship. We were unable to get it done. They wanted it real bad. They wanted it more than us. They were playing very well. And we had some issues on our ballclub, unfortunately, that we couldn't overcome. And that's the way it works sometimes.
We don't hang our heads. We understand how the game is played. We're a very resilient bunch. And I think we look forward to playing in the Finals again next year.
Other than that, that's about all I have to say for an opening statement.
I know you've said it many times in the past that you can just tell when they're not focused and ready before the game. Were there any signs of that today?
Laimbeer: I don't know if there were any signs that we weren't ready to play. I think we were ready to play, I just think we ran out of gas.
You know, we tried to get out there, and we just didn't have it. It's been a long season. Played players a lot of minutes. There's no question that we were tired, we were banged up. We don't -- that is not an excuse, that is just reality. We still could have won the basketball game if we had executed the game plan. We turned the ball over in the first half 10 times. Gave them the confidence. We wanted to go inside. Our bigs didn't perform for us today. And that took us out of what we wanted to get accomplished. Then we got caught up in the perimeter game, they made shots, we didn't.
How effective was Cheryl Ford today for you?
Laimbeer: In my opening statement I should have made mention of Cheryl. That she played today, was spectacular. I thought it gave our team a lift. And quite frankly, even though she's playing on one leg, I think she did just as well as the rest of our bigs. We didn't have a good day on the inside.
Cheryl came, and went out there and did what she did and played through it. She's got the biggest heart in the world, and I give her a tremendous amount of credit. She can play on my team any day of the week.
What did they do inside against you to prevent you from scoring? Especially like Plenette?
Laimbeer: I don't think they really did anything, I think it's what we didn't do. We weren't aggressively posting up, and just saying give me the basketball. We got the basketball, we didn't attack the rim. We settled for little turn around jump shots. We didn't convert when we did attack the rim.
So overall it was not anything different, it's just that we weren't that intense or aggressive on the inside, and that was a big key going into this ballgame for us. We knew we had to go inside and get some easy baskets and get to the foul line. And that didn't work. We weren't able to do it. And that was, I think, a major part of this game. Plus, they made a lot of shots. No question about that. When they make shots, they are very difficult to beat, no question about that. And they did.
If we had executed our game plan, we would have been able to score more and take away some of their easy transition baskets, but we weren't able to do it.
You pulled three of your starters within the first five minutes of the game. Elaine never game back, Swin came back for limited minutes here and there, and Katie didn't play much. How much going forward are you going to have to look at those? Obviously, with Cheryl out, that was one thing. But especially, with Swin, is that going to be something you're going to look to add going forward?
Laimbeer: I don't know. I'll answer the question in two parts. The first part, I pulled players early on in the game. Elaine wasn't going to play a lot of minutes. She got us off to a good, sound, steady start and played defense. That's her job. That's what we look for her to do.
Feenstra always gets tired around the 4 minute mark, and 5 minute mark of the game, and she wasn't as effective as we hoped to start the game. Plenette's been playing the best in the series of anybody. So I had to get her in the game at that point. You could see the emotion and the way that Phoenix was playing at that time. We needed somebody who had been in the series had been able to score for us on the inside. That's why those substitutions were made.
As far as the long-term, I told our players, we have no idea what's going to happen because of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Every team in this league has multiple free agents. We happen to have three unrestricted free agents, and two restricted free agents and they're all starters.
Okay, so it's a wide open situation, depending on what comes down with the CBA as to what, not only our team will look like, but other teams will look like. And also, is there an expansion? There are so many question marks out there for next season.
However, we do have a great nucleus of some very talented players. There are many players in the league that would love to play for the Detroit Shock, and I think our future is very bright.
Katie and Deanna both, can you just talk about how difficult it was that they shot so well early on, and you had such a big hole to dig out?
Deanna Nolan: Well, it was making shots was part of it, but the whole thing was just defense. I thought our defense just wasn't there tonight. You know, and then the times we needed key rebounds when we got a stop, they'd get the offensive rebound. And times we didn't get the rebound, we didn't go down and convert on the other end.
Because we were making runs, but it's just that one rebound or that one shot, or just something. Defense.
Can you describe how physical that game was today? There was a lot of bodies falling on the floor. Lot of elbows going here and there. Was this game any more physical than any others that you've played?
Nolan: I think this is the most physical game of the series, because it's an elimination game for both teams. It's what we expected. They just came out, and I thought they wanted it more.
What do you have to say about that, Katie?
Smith: The whole season's been like that. So this isn't anything that's different than what we do on a day-today day basis. This is for the championship, so nobody's leaving anything on the floor.
Did you get that mark today?
Smith: No, I got it at the other game.
Nolan: Game four.
Smith: Obviously we took a beating out there.
Why did it take you so long to get on track, because you had a really, really good fourth quarter?
Nolan: Well, I don't think it took me so long to get on track. I thought we wanted to go inside a little more in the first half. You know, start our presence inside. That wasn't working well for us, so, you know, it was time for me to look a little more for my shot. I don't say I was off track. I mean, I took shots.
You said that you had some trouble inside today, does that add pressure to your game? How does that affect how you play?
Nolan: I don't think it adds pressure to our game. You know, we're shooters, we're going to shoot. I think it added pressure inside. As for them making moves to the basket, because as soon as they put it down, they were getting double and triple-teamed. So it was kind of hard for them to kick it back out to a guard to go and create or do something.
Bill talked about the future of this franchise, and how you guys have a lot of free agents. Have you given any thought to - are you definitely coming back next year? Have you thought about that?
Smith: I plan on being in the Olympics, so I was going to get in shape anyways during the off-season. So yeah, I've got enough left in these legs to go another round. And you know, I'd like to play with Tweety again if she wouldn't mind.
Bill said that he thought maybe that the Phoenix was the hungrier team today, do you agree with that?
Smith: Yeah, they played better. I mean, flat out. The energy, just a little pep in their step. They were making shots. Just were on it, you know what I mean? They looked like they were just clicking.
They played well, and obviously, we were just always playing from behind the whole game. And couldn't quite catch up. But they obviously, you know, kind of tasted what they wanted and they went for it.
Obviously, this is very disappointing, but how disappointing is it? Especially after being a shot away, you know, in Phoenix?
Nolan: Well, exactly. Everybody knows we should have won Game 4 in Phoenix. But as you can see, Game 5 was another chance at it. Unfortunately, we didn't pull it out tonight.
I don't say it was disappointing for us, maybe because we won a championship before. But I also feel bad for the people that really wanted it. You know, as for getting their first one.
On what went wrong for the Shock:
Swin Cash: We didnít get the job done. Thereís no way you can let a team score 100 points and think that youíre going to be able to get as many shots up and compete with the 3-pointers. Our defense just wasnít solid like it needed to be.
On if the Shock dug themselves into a hole too early to recover:
Cash: No. We had opportunities, down twelve points, thatís nothing for us, weíve bounced back from that before. We didnít get stops at different points in the game and that hurt us.
On if Phoenix did anything differently tonight:
Cash: They did the same thing they usually do. Nothing that we havenít seen. It was a great job by their coach sticking to their game plan and their team was just ready.
On if she considers this a successful season:
Cash: It was a good season, I donít consider it a success without getting a championship. I donít consider this a successful season, it consider it a good season of basketball.
On the game:
Shannon Johnson: I just thought that Phoenix came out and played like they needed to. Knocked down some key shots in the beginning and we played catch up most of the game.
On the season:
Johnson: That's what I came here for. To play for the opportunity to get a championship and that's what I got. What the future holds, I don't know. It's good that I got the opportunity, that's what I wanted. Just came out and wanted to give my all tonight.
On the positive aspects of her season:
Johnson: I think I saw a different side of myself, as far as coming off the bench of how to produce off the bench. I thought at the beginning of the season I was a little frustrated with it, I didn't think I was able to give all that I could to this team but throughout the season I was able to adjust to my role.