Defense keeps Mercury alive
By CLIFF BRUNT
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
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.
stagnant offense helped.
“In the fourth quarter, nobody wanted to take the
shot for them, so they were just passing it around,”
“That’s what we wanted.”
Tamika Catchings, who led
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
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,”
“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
rookie reserve Briann January, whose quickness had been a matchup nightmare for
the Mercury, shot 1 for 9 and finished with eight points.
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.
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,”
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.
at 59 on a layup by Catchings with 4:30 left in the third quarter, but
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
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.”