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Mercury face tough stretch of games against top teams

Phoenix Mercury star Cappie Pondexter celebrates a play against the New York Liberty on June 10th, 2009.via <a href="">Max Simbron</a>
Phoenix Mercury star Cappie Pondexter celebrates a play against the New York Liberty on June 10th, 2009.via Max Simbron

The Phoenix Mercury started the season on June 6th and in the first 11 days have played only 4 games. They won 3 of those and are currently tied with for first place in the West with their next opponent, the young Minnesota Lynx.

The game Wednesday against the Lynx kicks off a stretch of 6 games in 10 days with the first three at home and the final three on the road. All six games are against top notch opponents as well. Only the LA Sparks, the preseason choice of most experts to win Western Conference, currently has a losing record.

Asked about the next three games against Western Conference rivals, Mercury all-star Cappie Pondexter had this to say, "It's going to be a challenge for us. Our goal coming into this year is to protect home court. We've got Minnesota, a much improved team from last year with Gillom being the head of that. LA of course, they have an incredible team and then finishing with a game against Seattle another pretty good solid team. It just shows how competitive the West is but for us, we just take it a game at a time which starts tomorrow against Minnesota."

The Lynx will come into Phoenix having played the night before in Sacramento but Cappie doesn't feel that will slow down their young team.

The Minnesota squad is just behind the league's fastest team, the Mercury, in pace (possessions per 40 minutes) and are neck and neck with Phoenix in team scoring with Phoenix at 92 points per game and the Lynx at 89. Any way you slice it, this game should be a shootout that could threaten the record the Mercury set in their last game when they scored 115 against the normally solid defense of the Sacramento Monarchs.

The Lynx arrival also marks the return of Mercury fan favorite Kelly Miller who was traded in the off-season for center Nicole Ohlde.

In her first four games with the Lynx, Kelly has seen her numbers drop across the board. She's averaging only 3 points and 2 assists per game down from 8 points and 4 assists last season with Phoenix. Meanwhile, Ohlde has yet to play a game for her new team due to a broken bone in her foot although she has resumed full practice. Nicole is rusty and working to get into game shape and while she might be in uniform for Wednesday's game, she will not likely play for another week.

Up next after the Lynx is the star-studded line up from LA who play in Phoenix Friday night. Despite missing Candace Parker (maternity leave) and starting with a 1 - 3 record, the Sparks still have one of the most talented line ups in the game. They feature legends Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson in the front court and Betty Lennox on the wing.

Closing out the home stand on Sunday at 5pm, the Mercury get their first look at the Seattle Storm. The Storm are lead by league scoring leader Lauren Jackson who teased Phoenix fans this spring with word that she was thinking of signing here. After deciding to re-sign in Seattle, the quotes from Lauren make it seem as if she never seriously considered Phoenix. It will be interesting to see what kind of reception Mercury fans give the eclectic two-time MVP forward/center. You can watch this game on FSN AZ or NBA TV.

After the Lynx, Sparks and Storm it doesn't get any easier. The Mercury travel for a rematch against the Silver Stars in San Antonio on the 23rd, followed by the undefeated Washington Mystics on the 25th and then the Lynx again in Minnesota on the 27th to close out the opening month of the season.

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