PHOENIX 108, DETROIT 92
The Phoenix Mercury upset the Detroit Shock last night and became the first WNBA team to clinch the title on the road as they rolled past Mo-Town's finest for their first championship. It was a hard-won series for the gals from Arizona - featuring chippy play, hard-nose offense, and a decided lack of defense on part of both teams - but the Mercs held it together, and led by Taurasi, Pondexter, Taylor, and Smith, brought the trophy home for the 2007 season.
The game was more similar to the defensively-absent games of the first two contests in the series than the grittier play of games 3 and 4. The Mercury jumped out to an early lead and led the Shock 30-17 at the end of the first ten minutes. They never looked back, taking the Championship in deciding fashion by never allowing the Shock to even come close to touching their point total again. Penny Taylor led both teams with 30 points, while also hitting all 18 (yes, as in a one and then an eight) of her free-throws. The rest of the Mercs also did well, going a gargantuan 52.3% from the field and a strong 39.3% from beyond the arc. Six of the eight players seeing court-time made double-digit points, while still falling behind Detroit in most statistical comparisons (rebounds, steals, assists, etc.).
Detroit couldn't pull it together in the face of such an onslaught. Powell came out of the game early, and despite being MUCH stronger than Phoenix in the passing game, gave up too many turnovers (17 to Phoenix's 9) while never playing with a decent sense of urgency. Deanna Nolan did her best, scoring 27 points, but the reserves, so strong in earlier games, couldn't pull it together in this contest. By the end, the Shock were going through the motions, down by 18 in the beginning of the 4th, they shadowed the Mercs, but never put any kind of pressure on them. The game, as they say, was decided before it was decided, and Detroit, for all their gains in the season, for all the come-from-behind wins and marvelous play, for all the time spent at the top of their conference, could not pull a rabbit out of their hat. Their team played their system well, but it was not enough.
This game - and series - is going to have a major effect on the WNBA of 2008. Truthfully, there are few teams that have the kind of talent that Phoenix has, but the defense-first game of Sacramento and Detroit took a huge hit as Paul Westhead's offense-only system obliterated everything in its path. It took a while to implement, sure, but by the end of the season, Phoenix could not be stopped. They swept through both Seattle and San Antonio, before taking apart the best of the East despite losing two games and playing on the road for three matches. Everything - history, intuition, statistics, and more - were against them, and yet, they got through. What a series. Damn.
Be Proud, Phoenix. Be Proud.
- Turnovers were huge. Phoenix had 9. Detroit? 17.
- History. Just to reiterate, Phoenix is the first WNBA Champion to clinch on the road.
- 108 Points. The same number that Phoenix took in the first game.
- Detroit's defense. We can hem and haw all we want, but really, it should have been better than that.
- Strong crowd, especially seeing their lassies go down like that. I was surprised to see how many stuck around until the end.
Cappie Pondexter took home Finals MVP. Hardly could've picked someone else. While a case could be made for Diana Taurasi (her points total was only a little bit lower than Cappie, while being more consistent in her shots and topping in rebounds), Cappie brought an element of scrappiness and (dare I say it?) defense to a team that desperately needed it. Not only that, but she came through when it counted, scoring the game winner in Game 4 and posting 26 points and 10 assists in the deciding match. Taurasi may have pushed the ball more, but Cappie kept the team together for the long haul.
And so the playoffs end, not with a whimper, but a bang. The Mercs are the new WNBA Champions. They got over a middling opening to come back and, through a brand of offense unique to the league this season, smashed through supposedly wall-like opponents with poise, grit, and an engine like a freight train. It didn't hurt that they had four players that all could have started for the All-Star team, either, but that's neither here nor there. They rocked on, and I salute them for it.
So here's how it's gonna roll. Today is my last official entry of the season. Tomorrow, I'm gonna outline my plans for the off-season. Expect hilarity, off-color jokes, and a general lack of any real reporting. On Wednesday, I'm going to wrap-up the season. Until then?
See ya, Space Cowboy...
(All Photos from this entry are from the WNBA's Official Site).