Defense keeps Mercury alive


AP Sports Writer


— The high-scoring Phoenix Mercury saved their season with defense.

The Indiana Fever led the WNBA finals series 2-1 and had

a chance to clinch their first title in front of an active sellout crowd that

included local celebrities such as Indianapolis Colts players Peyton Manning

and Reggie Wayne. None of that mattered as the Mercury beat the Fever 90-77 on

Wednesday night to tie the series and force Game 5 Friday in Phoenix.


shot 2 for 13 in the fourth quarter, stifling any chance it had of overcoming

the 72-65 deficit it faced going into the period. The Fever scored 12 points in

the quarter, the third-lowest total in a fourth quarter in finals history.

While Phoenix defended

well, Indiana‘s

stagnant offense helped.

“In the fourth quarter, nobody wanted to take the

shot for them, so they were just passing it around,” Phoenix center Tangela Smith said.

“That’s what we wanted.”

Tamika Catchings, who led Indiana with 24 points and 12 rebounds,

agreed that her teammates became hesitant. She said this is the wrong time for


“Hopefully, that’s out of our system and we’ll get

to Phoenix

Friday and we’ll be ready to play,” she said.

Catchings shot 11 for 17 and Ebony Hoffman scored 17

points on 7-for-10 shooting. The rest of the team shot 11 for 44.

All-Star Katie Douglas, who was hoping to celebrate a

clinching win in her hometown, scored seven points on 2 for 14 shooting.

“I thought Katie got some great looks, looks she

had been knocking down from the 3-point line to the rim,” Indiana coach Lin Dunn said.

“Maybe toward the end, she passed up some shots because she had missed



bench, which both coaches had said was the reason the Fever were leading the

series, struggled on Wednesday. The Fever bench shot a combined 2-for-16 from

the field.


rookie reserve Briann January, whose quickness had been a matchup nightmare for

the Mercury, shot 1 for 9 and finished with eight points. Phoenix‘s Diana Taurasi said stopping January

was a key.

“In these games, we’ve struggled when everyone has

gotten their points, especially Briann when she comes in and changes the

game,” Taurasi said. “Sometimes you focus on certain things and you

get them done.”


offense was in tune as usual. Cappie Pondexter scored 22 points, Penny Taylor

added 17 points and Taurasi and Smith each scored 16.

The Mercury shot 10 for 24 from 3-point range. Phoenix felt Indiana

controlled the tempo and slowed it down the past two games, but the Mercury

felt they regained control on Wednesday.

“Our strength all year has been in our confidence

in our attack, and I felt we got that back,” Taylor said. “We were playing with

confidence and attacking every single time down floor, and that’s hard to

defend for 40 minutes.”


shot 72 percent from the field in the first quarter to jump out to a 33-22

lead. The Fever held the Mercury to 16 points in the second quarter and cut

their deficit to 49-47 at the half.

Indiana tied the score

at 59 on a layup by Catchings with 4:30 left in the third quarter, but Phoenix went on a quick

6-0 run to force a timeout and put the fans, who had been standing in

anticipation of a Fever lead, back in their seats. The Mercury extended their

lead to 72-65 at the end of the third quarter.


trimmed its deficit to 72-68 on a steal and layup by Catchings, but the Fever

went cold and the Mercury pulled away with a 12-2 spurt. A 3-pointer by Taylor made it 84-70 with

2:33 to go.

Dunn was disappointed to lose at home but focused on

the fact that her team still could win the championship.

“They had to win,” Dunn said of the Mercury.

“They had to do it the hard way. Now, we’ve got to go out there and do it

the hard way, too. The only situation we’ve got here is that we’re tied.”

Taurasi was glad to earn another chance, but she

wouldn’t promise a victory on Friday.

“I’m going to guarantee that we’re going to come

out and leave it all on the floor,” she said. “I’m going to guarantee

that the minute the game ends, we’re going to be spent physically and

emotionally — and hopefully we’re holding the trophy.”