The Mercury are coming off a thrilling triple overtime loss to the "Class of the West" Seattle Storm, but remain mired in a season of mediocrity.
Mediocrity is actually a stretch goal at this point with the defending champs sitting at four games under .500, but one thing that can certainly help is having the next two games coming against the Tulsa Shock. Tulsa isn't technically an expansion club, but they are are playing and acting like one.
Coach Nolan Richardson has been tweaking his roster non-stop since the season started in hopes of finding players who both fit and buy-in to his unique system of play. 12 different players have started games for the Shock this season and they have had at least 15 players on their roster at one point or another.
The Shock come into Phoenix fresh off a win in San Antonio, where they broke a 12-game losing streak. Last time they were in Phoenix, they had also played the night before and it showed as the Mercury ran them off the court with a 116-84 drubbing.
Phoenix fans will be hoping for more of the same tonight and there's no reason to think they won't get it.
Tang is setting some records this season with her longevity and a career full of solid play.
This from the team's game notes:
In her 13th WNBA season, Tangela Smith has played in 400 career games and is just 11 games shy of breaking Vickie Johnson's WNBA record for most games played in a career (410). Smith was originally selected with the 12th overall pick (second round) of the 1998 WNBA Draft by the Sacramento Monarchs and was later acquired by the Mercury on April 4, 2007 as part of a draft-day blockbuster trade. From 2005-06, Smith played for the Charlotte Sting.
Tan's longevity has placed her near the tops of several WNBA all-time statistical categories. Among those, on June 1 at Minnesota, Tan became just the fourth player in league history to record 4,500 points and 2,000 rebounds in a career and on July 3 she surpassed Sheryl Swoopes for fifth all-time on the WNBA career scoring list and surpassed Margo Dydek for sixth all-time on the WNBA career rebounds list.
These are great accomplishments for Smith and she surely deserves praise, but the fact remains that this season, her shooting has fallen off the table and yet she is still playing 30 minutes per game. Smith put together two great shooting nights to start July (14-for-24), but followed those up with two very bad games (1-for-15) - a microcosm of her season.
The inconsistency has been a major factor in the team's offensive struggles since opponents can help off her and focus on on Penny, Diana and Candice when Smith's shot isn't falling.
Coach Gaines has to be hoping that at some point she will return to form, because he clearly has no faith in back-up center Nicole Ohlde despite assurances this offseason that she would play a vital role for the team this season.