Mercury Coach Gaines Perplexed By Team's Slide, Hopes For Divine Intervention

The Mercury have now lost six straight games and at 5 and 11 are only one game ahead in the loss column of the last place Tulsa Shock.

By any account, this season has been a disaster so far and head coach Corey Gaines has no real answers.

"I've never experienced this before. I don't know what to say. I'm a young coach too. I've been calling around asking everybody, so I don't know what to say," Gaines expressed with frustration after Friday's loss to the Washington Mystics.

The Mercury are losing close games late and not getting the fourth quarter separation they were known for last season.

Behind the scenes, excuses range from the officiating for taking the team out of a rhythm or not calling fouls on the Mercury's stars to the extended overseas schedules played by Penny Taylor and Diana Taurasi.

The Mercury however, have three players who rank in the top twenty in free throw attempts per game (Taurasi, Taylor, Bonner) and Taurasi leads the league at 7.1 per game. Officiating in the WNBA can be disappointing, but rarely is cause for a team winning or losing a game and certainly can't be blamed for a 5 and 11 record.

Taurasi and Taylor certainly at times look tired and Diana's shooting efficiency has dropped from 46 percent last season to 39 percent this one. Neither will get a break anytime soon either, as they will practice and play for their national teams during the all-star break next week in preparation for the World Championships in September.

Players like Candice Dupree, Temeka Johnson and DeWanna Bonner have tried to step up and carry some of the load but the top six players on the roster are simply having to do too much. After Bonner, who is playing through a painful foot injury, the Mercury are getting very little production from their bench which in part could be due to inconsistent rotations and opportunities.

Back-up point guard Ketia Swanier and back-up center Nicole Ohlde have both performed well at times and yet often will find themselves playing 20 minutes one night and five the next. The Mercury certainly can't rely on these role players to carry them but they also can't continue to rely so heavily on the top of the rotation either - particularly with the grueling year-round schedules.

Struggling center Tangela Smith had one good shooting game Friday which Gaines hopes will be the turning point but either way doesn't seem inclined to make any changes to his rotation.

"She's our veteran player," Gaines said defensively about Smith's season-long shooting slump. "We wouldn't have won those championships without Tangela so she's a big part of us. Sometimes you've got to live with it."

 

Too many close games lost late should be an indication that the starters need to be better rested going into the fourth quarter. For the Mercury to turn this season around, it's going to take the entire team working together and that includes more trust in the bench.

The bottom line is this team is not finding a way to get it done and Gaines only hope appears to be from above, "Maybe basketball Gods will give us taps or touches on the other side of the all-star break. You never know."

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