After a convincing win on Wednesday afternoon against the Sacramento Monarchs, the Phoenix Mercury were set to take on the Detroit Shock without their undisputed team leader, Diana Taurasi.
Taurasi, suspended for two games for conduct detrimental to the team (allegations of an Extreme DUI), was not on the bench for Saturday night's game at US Airways Center.
Without Taurasi in the lineup, Kelly Mazzante got the rare opportunity to clock some serious minutes. She failed to convert any of her 5 three-point opportunities, and was unable to contribute any points to the cause, nor did her defense inspire any confidence.
More recap after the jump.
To raise awareness for women's breast health, the WNBA has invited all its fans to "Rock The Pink" and wear pink clothing. Most of the Mercury and Shock players wore pink versions of their basketball shoes.
At the first commercial break, newly signed Australian Penny Taylor, instrumental to the 2007 WNBA Championship Mercury team, walked across the court to a standing ovation from the good-sized crowd. She was interviewed at halftime, and plans to be back as soon as possible, all the while intending to be fully healthy before taking the court.
Without Taurasi, the Mercury has one less reliable scoring option on the court. Mazzante appeared winded at multiple times during the contest, which indicates that she would have a difficult time adjusting to this increased workload without seeing a significant drop-off in the quality of her play.
Coach Corey Gaines was forced to use Ketia Swanier for lengthy stretches of time in order to give Temeka Johnson, Kelly Mazzante, and Cappie Pondexter some time to rest. Fortunately, she rose to the occasion, scoring 13 points on 4/5 shooting.
The second quarter was marked by a lack of concentration on the part of the Mercury. Airballs, turnovers, and a lack of hustle plagued the LifeLockers. Detroit's Kara Braxton bullied Mercury big Nicole Ohlde, getting rebounds and baskets consistently.
At the end of the half, the score was all tied up at 43. All of a sudden, the referees contemplated a late foul call, giving the Shock 0.3 seconds to shoot two free throws, both of which were converted by Kristin Haynie. Score at the half: Shock 45, Mercury 43.
After the half, the Mercury appeared rejuvenated, and were led by none other than Le'coe Willingham, who quickly scored six points to help Phoenix get out to a five-point lead.
Offensively, the Mercury is an extremely potent team that scores in bunches and creates havoc for the opposing team. The Shock played very well, riding a two-game winning streak into Phoenix to take on the shorthanded Mercury.
With the Shock up 79-77 with 2 minutes left in the game, the Mercury were unable to put the ball in the basket, but a loose ball foul on Braxton gave Phoenix another chance. Cappie Pondexter drove the lane, and was fouled by Taj McWilliams. After sinking both shots from the charity stripe, CP and the Mercury tied up the game at 79 with 1:12 left.
After a Shock turnover and a missed three pointer from Pondexter, Le'coe Willingham was able to secure the rebound and make the basket, but missed the free throw. Detroit's Katie Smith was able to drive the lane and get a foul called with 18.5 left in regulation.
Smith put up the first shot and... she missed! After making the second, the Shock were forced to foul Pondexter in order to stop the clock. The crowd went wild as she sank the first, and stood in anticipation for the second. After dancing on top of the cylinder for a brief moment, the ball met nylon, giving the Mercury a 3 point lead with 14.5 to go.
After a timeout, Detroit''s Deanna Nolan showed the ice in her veins, nailing a three pointer with a hand in her face. With 6 seconds remaining, the Mercury inbounded the ball from halfcourt to Tangela Smith, who handed the ball off to Pondexter for a missed three.
Off to overtime we went!
Despite Katie Smith's best efforts, Phoenix was able to break out during the overtime period, registering 14 points in the 5 minutes, giving the Mercury a 7 point victory and a 12-4 record on the season, best in the WNBA. Check back later for pictures of the game!