AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - No heavyweight boxing bouts have taken place at The Palace, but a basketball version of jabs and counters resumed Thursday as the Mercury reassembled to review the wrongs of Wednesday’s 108-100 loss to Detroit in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals.
All-Star forward Cheryl Ford watched in street clothes with a sore knee, but Detroit’s replacements did her work and more. The Shock’s interior lineup of Kara Braxton, Katie Feenstra and Plenette Pierson both came off the bench and schooled the Mercury for a combined 52 points and 29 rebounds, with Pierson and Braxton creating most of that wreckage.
“Box out,” Mercury forward Tangela Smith said of needed improvements. “We were staring at them rebounding. We’ve played bigger teams before, and we’re one of the smaller teams, but just because they’re bigger doesn’t mean we can’t be better.”
Phoenix was quick to credit Detroit for making plays, but the Mercury also saw missed chances on offense and defensive miscues that could help correct inside positioning and rebounding woes from Wednesday.
“We have to be more aggressive, which we weren’t,” forward Kelly Schumacher said.
Don’t expect an overhaul, however. Ford (if she plays) and Braxton may see a little extra attention, but knowing Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith are excellent outside shooters, the Mercury won’t sprint two or three defenders to the paint and leave the outside vacant.
Coach Paul Westhead tried Olympia Scott for a few minutes Wednesday, searching for someone inside to stem the tide. But while Scott won a championship in Sacramento in 2005, the veteran only played eight games this season, and she doesn’t figure to be a bigger piece of the interior puzzle.
An aggressive Diana Taurasi would make a difference, as fouls limited her playing time and aggressiveness, issues the Mercury feel can be solved without blowing up their style and starting anew.
In a game where not much went right, the Mercury were within four points with three minutes remaining.
“The bad news is we lost the game,” Westhead said. “The good news is through all our dilemmas, we’re right there.”
TWIDDLING THEIR THUMBS
Never wanting to sit around and stew — even TV timeouts drive Westhead crazy — it was no surprise the Mercury weren’t thrilled about having to wait an extra day before Game 2.
Though it’ll give the team an extra day of rest, it also gives Detroit an extra day, which bodes well for the Shock while waiting until tipoff to know whether Ford can play in Game 2.
The Mercury were used to a one-day gap between games, which is how most of the second half of the season schedule and first two playoff series unfolded.
“One day is good enough,” Smith said. “I don’t like the waiting.”
Point guard Kelly Miller turned 29 years old Thursday, and the rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” sung by teammates after practice briefly put her in the spotlight, where she’d rather not toil.
Kelly, born four minutes before twin sister Coco of the Washington Mystics, has had to listen to lots of jokes about how the point guard sprinted from the womb and led the fast break even before birth.
“I’ve heard them all,” she said.
Mercury vs. Shock
All games on ESPN or ESPN2
Game 1: Detroit 108, Phoenix 100
(Detroit leads series 1-0)
Game 2: Saturday at Detroit, 12:30 p.m.
Game 3: Tuesday at Phoenix, 6 p.m.
Game 4: Thursday at Phoenix, 5:30 p.m.*
Game 5: Sept. 16 at Detroit, 1:30 p.m.*