Cappie Pondexter's 3-point attempt with 21.9 seconds left would have tied the game had it stayed down.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
The ball went halfway down before rattling out. Detroit secured the rebound and, after knocking down some late free throws, secured the win and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
“It was painful a little bit because it felt really good,” said Pondexter about her potential game-tying shot. “I had the confidence that it was going in.”
“That was a great shot,” said Diana Taurasi. “We’ll take 100 of those. Every single time Cappie takes that shot, we feel like it’s going in and for about a second and a half it went in and for a second it went out.”
Pondexter’s shot was a microcosm of the Mercury’s night. They got open look after open look, but could not knock down their outside shots.
The statistics are staggering. The Mercury shot 5-of-29 (16.1 percent) from 3-point range for the game and went 0-for-11 during the fourth quarter. Entering the game, Phoenix was shooting 41.6 percent from 3-point range during the playoffs, second best among all playoff teams.
"We played hard, we did everything we wanted to, the shots just didn’t go in tonight," Taurasi said. "We got good looks, but they didn’t fall."
Taurasi, who led all Mercury scorers with 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting, connected on just 3-of-11 from 3-point range. None of her teammates fared any better from long range: Kelly Mazzante, 2-of-7; Tangela Smith, 0-of-6; Pondexter, 0-of-4; Kelly Miller, 0-of-2; and Penny Taylor, 0-of-1.
“We had some good looks and just didn't make baskets,” said Mercury head coach Paul Westhead. “We're a shooting team, so if you're not making shots, it really gets tough on you.”
The Mercury’s shooting woes were not limited to shots behind the arc. They shot just 34.7 percent from the field, after shooting 44.5 percent throughout the playoffs. They also missed 10 of their 38 free throws, including six misses in the fourth quarter.
“I would take the 10 free throws or five or six of those threes,” said Westhead. “So either way, I think our inability to make the baskets that we normally make hurt us.”
Another telling sequence occurred with four minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Mercury trailed 79-75 when they went though a frustrating offensive possession.
Taurasi: 3-point shot, miss;
Smith: offensive rebound, miss on the put back layup;
Smith: offensive rebound, passes out to Pondexter;
Pondexter: 3-point shot, miss;
Smith: offensive rebound, passes out to Taurasi;
Taurasi: 3-point shot, miss;
Miller: offensive rebound, passes out to Smith;
Smith: 3-point shot, miss;
Taylor: offensive rebound, miss on the put back layup;
Cheryl Ford grabs the defensive rebound for Detroit to end the possession.
During that 48-second possession, the Mercury missed six shots, grabbed five offensive rebounds and were unable to cut into the Detroit lead.
“A few of our shots didn’t go in the same as they did the last game,” Taylor said. “We didn’t shoot as well and that happens. We needed shots to go down and they didn’t and we lose by a few points.”
For the first time in the series, the Mercury won the battle on the boards and outrebounded Detroit, 47-42, including a 29-28 edge on the offensive glass.
“The good thing was we were getting offensive rebounds. You take the positives,” said Taylor. “We weren’t shooting as well as last game, but I doubt that will happen on Thursday. So we’ll just keep shooting the ball.”
The Mercury players emphasized the importance of putting this game, and their shooting performance, behind them and focusing on the do-or-die Game 4.
“Some nights you make them, some nights you miss them,” said Taurasi. “The way we come back on Thursday is really going to determine what affect it had on us. For me, it’s over. I think for this team, it’s over. The milk already spilt. You can’t cry now. Let’s play Game 4.”