Playing the team with the worst record in the league, this should have been a win for the Mercury, but it proved to be a hard-fought game. The Mercury played well, but the Tulsa Shock are a team that's definitely making progress as the season moves on.
"They're a team that's going to fight. They are like the old Sacramento. You can't just play against them and expect you're going to win the game. They fight hard, they play hard, so you have to match their energy," Coach Gaines said about his opponent, who he feels are getting used to Nolan Richardson's system.
On the offensive end, Tulsa got the most out of Kara Braxton, who scored 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in only 11 minutes of play. Her play pushed the Mercury into using less of the Rover Zone than they normally do.
Gaines explains his defensive game plan, "Forget all the fancy step-through... all that bullshit. She (Braxton) goes straight to the basket - which is a force - so we kind of have to watch out on her. If she gets going and sucks us all in, then they have shooters, (Shanna) Crossley and (Ivory) Latta now."
On the defensive end, however, the Shock weren't able to slow the Mercury down with their press, despite a few backcourt steals. According to Gaines, the Tulsa defense will give anyone an open shot if you drive and kick and move the ball well.
He compared this to the Seattle Storm, who have set defensive schemes designed to give certain people open looks.
The Mercury's 50 percent shooting from the field and 10-of-19 shooting from three proved that point.
Candice Dupree Fitting In
On the interior, the Shock didn't double-team Dupree, which led to her scoring a season-high 26 points on 12-of-17 shooting. Dupree has clearly reached the point where her stamina is where it needs to be for the fast-paced system and the team is doing a better job maximizing her skills.
Gaines spoke highly of Dupree's ability to adapt, "She's the most coachable person I've known or played with, man or woman. I've told her to do certain things and she's picked it up right away. I just have to tell her to do the right thing, so if she's not playing well, blame it on me, because she does whatever I tell her to do."
"Over time, it was bound to happen," Dupree said about her fitting in. "Prior to me coming here, they didn't necessarily have that inside presence, a go-to post player, so they didn't really need the interior passing. The guards are doing a great job getting the ball inside to me and doing a great job pushing the ball up the floor. So I'm just trying to have fun."
Banged-up Penny Taylor Shines
Penny Taylor continues to show why she's one of the most well-rounded players in the league. She hit 4-of-5 of her three-point attempts, went 7-for-7 from the free throw line, and finished with a game-high 29 points to go along with seven assists and six rebounds.
Taylor is playing through some pain, however, and is looking forward to four days off before facing the Shock again on Thursday on their floor.
"I'm a little bruised up at the moment, but that's just the way it is half-way through the season and it's been a tough stretch with all the things we had with All-Star and National Team," Taylor said with ice on her knee and ankle before leaving the locker room to visit the team doctor.
Reaching For Goals
The Mercury are making progress towards their goal of repeating as WNBA champions, but understand they still have a ways to go.
"We're moving in the right direction and we're getting better and we haven't separated; that's the good thing about us. Win, lose or draw, we're in it together and that's the good thing about this team and this organization," Temeka Johnson said after the game.
White House Visit
The Mercury will visit President Obama at the White House on Monday to be honored for their 2009 championship. According to Gaines, they are scheduled to play a little ball with the Hoopster-in-Chief in some kind of clinic.
Dupree, who wasn't on the 2009 team, said she tried to get out of the visit, feeling that it wasn't her place, but will be attending. Look for her to be standing in the back of any photos, however.
"I wish I was one of them that got the championship ring. Hopefully next year I'll be there and have a ring on my finger," Candice said.
Penny Taylor is more excited about the visit, which is marked on the calendar in the team's locker room simply with the word "Obama".
"It's my first one," The Australian said. "I'm really excited and I look forward to going with all the girls and having a look around and dressing up. It will be a nice change from coming in here in sweats every day and sweating our butts off, so that will be nice."