The saving grace for the struggling Mercury (5-8) continues to be the overall lack of quality play in the Western Conference which all but assures the Phoenix a playoff bid although it look like the 12 and 2 Storm have already all but secured the number one seed and home court advantage.
Compared to last season, the Mercury are still scoring the ball but are doing so with less efficiency despite the addition of Candice Dupree who leads the league with a .670 shooting percentage.
As a team, Phoenix is shooting about 3 points less from behind the arc and about 2 points less from the field. The biggest change is a surprisingly increased reliance on three-point shooting. Last season the Mercury attempted just under 20 three's per game. This season they average 24.2 per game. More long range shots at a lower efficiency puts even more pressure on the defense who has to recover in transition to stop the run outs that come from long rebounds.
And while Pondexter's points are being made up by Dupree's efficiency and a sharp increase in production from Penny Taylor who is taking about 5 more shots per game in her starting role, the team seems to miss her most late in games. The Mercury are 2 and 5 in games decided by three points or less.
The Merc face the 8 and 5 Mystics in the second of a three game road trip. Tomorrow, the team will likely have a White House visit to celebrate their 2009 championship with the Hoopster-in-Chief and they certainly would like to have a win prior to that meeting. Even Obama doesn't want to deal with an angry Taurasi.
This game will be broadcast on NBA TV.
From the WNBA.com preview:
The Mercury's up-tempo style hasn't led to any success lately, and they'll try to avoid their first four-game losing streak in more than two years Sunday afternoon when they visit the stingy Washington Mystics.
The Mercury lost their third straight game by three points or fewer Friday night at Connecticut, shooting 37.9 percent in an 82-79 defeat. Their last four-game losing streak opened the 2008 season.
After sweeping a three-game homestand, though, Washington couldn't stretch its overall winning streak to five Friday in Chicago. The Mystics, who allow a league-low 71.7 points per game, lost 79-72 despite getting 25 points from Crystal Langhorne.