Cappie Pondexter and the Mercury hope to continue to take it to Katie Feenstra and the other Shock posts in Tuesday's pivotal Game 3.
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PHOENIX -- After Saturday's 28-point defeat in Game 2 at home, the Detroit Shock were beaten, their heads hanging, their swagger lacking, their spirits broken. They seemed a far cry from the 2006 team that topped Sacramento in five games to take home the championship, a far cry from the team that was once 24-6 and coasted to the East's best record and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
"We're pi--ed," said All-Star forward Cheryl Ford on Monday. "Mad is an understatement. We're pi--ed. We know we beat ourselves because we didn't play our kind of basketball. We gave up. We tucked our tails between our legs, put our heads down and we gave up. And that's not Detroit Shock basketball."
While the Shock were taken out of Game 2 in a psychological sense, it was Phoenix's up-tempo style of play that caused Detroit the most problems. The Mercury were getting out on the fast break whenever possible, taking the first open shot in most instances and pressuring Detroit's bigs with a double- or triple-team whenever the ball came into their defensive lane. So how will the Shock react to Phoenix's fast-paced approach tonight in Game 3?
"Who cares?" asked Ford defiantly. "We don't care about their up-tempo game. That's them. We've just got to stick to playing our game and posting up like we did in Game 1. We have to focus on setting up our half-court offense and be patient and everything will fall into place."
Ford, who has been nursing a sore knee since midseason and missed the regular season's final 13 games, remains a question mark for Game 3. But Ford insists she is planning to be on the court and could play a major role in Detroit returning to its style.
"We have to stop coming down the court and just taking the first open shot that we have," said All-WNBA first-teamer Deanna Nolan of the Shock. "We have to throw the ball around, see the seams and find our big girls in the post."
Detroit's bigs had trouble dealing with the multiple-defender traps in Game 2, but center Kara Braxton insists a fix is within reach.
"We have learn how to score when they're triple- and quadruple-teaming us," she said. "There's no real science to it, we just have to play our game."
"We know they're great players and they're going to come in with their A game," says Mercury point guard Kelly Miller about the defending champs. "But we're going to keep doing what we've been doing. We'll stay active and try to shut them down. But they're great players who are going to come out and play as hard as they can."
Now back on their home court for Games 3 and 4, the Mercury, on the other hand, can't ask for much more after a resounding away win in Game 2, right? But maybe they can be better, says Phoenix All-Star guard Cappie Pondexter.
"We looked at film (Monday) and we didn't play as great as it may have seemed on defense. We played a lot harder, but we can still be more aggressive and do more to limit their inside play and force more outside shots.
"It was like a two-man show between Tangela (Smith) and Diana (Taurasi) in Game 2," Pondexter continued, "but I think we can be better. Kelly Miller can keep mixing it up on the inside, getting tough layups and offensive rebounds."
Of particular concern for the Mercury is the shooting slump of both Detroit guards, Nolan and veteran Katie Smith. They combined for 33 points in the Shock's Game 1 win, but Smith was only 4-13 from the floor and Nolan's 11 points were a 2007 playoff low. The duo followed that up with just 17 total points in Game 2.
So what is concerning for the Mercury? The two have to break out offensively at some point, don't they?
"We can hope that they'll keep missing shots in Game 3," says Pondexter with a smile, "but they're great players. They're going to come out aggressive and looking to attack. And I think they'll knock those shots down in Game 3. We just have to … limit them and make every shot they take a tough one."
But like the Shock, the Mercury also realize the importance of staying true to their style.
"We need to focus on what we do well as well as stopping what they do well," said backup Phoenix center Kelly Schumacher. "They have a bunch of big forces inside and they have people coming off the bench just as big.
"But we definitely have an advantage as far as running the court is concerned. Bigger usually also means slower. That's not true in all cases, but we've been trained to run a lot and we've been doing that all season. If we continue to play our game and continue to run, I think we'll be in good shape."
"We just need to get another team effort," Pondexter said. "Then you'll see the Mercury at our best."