Mercury topple Shock behind Pondexter for first WNBA crown
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The tattoo on Cappie Pondexter's left arm
was inked when she was still in high school. It features the WNBA
logo, and reads "The Future."
That future is now for Pondexter and the Phoenix Mercury, who
beat the Detroit Shock 108-92 on Sunday and wrapped up their first
league title in the deciding Game 5 of the championship series.
|Rising Above It All|
Let's give it up for the WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury. To illustrate how extremely rare an accomplishment it is to win a winner-take-all game on the road with a championship series -- regardless of sport -- at stake, we go way back ...
• The last MLB team to do it was the 1979 Pirates, who won Game 7 of the World Series in Baltimore 4-1. Series MVP Willie Stargell went 4-for-5 in the victory, hitting the go-ahead homer in the sixth inning.
• The last NBA team to do it was the 1978 Bullets (now the Wizards), who won in Seattle 105-99 to win the NBA title. The Bullets won despite a regular-season record of 44-38.
• The last NHL team to do it was the 1971 Canadiens, who rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Blackhawks 3-2 in Chicago Stadium. Henri Richard scored 2 goals in the victory.
-- Compiled by ESPN Research
A fast start helped Phoenix become the first team in the WNBA's
11-year history to claim the title on the road. Pondexter, in her
second year in the league, scored 26 points and was chosen as the
"It's been a long time coming," Pondexter said. "It's something
I've been waiting for, working hard for, and it's finally here."
Penny Taylor scored 30 points and Diana Taurasi had 17 for the
The Shock lost the last two games of the series, ending their
bid to win back-to-back titles. Detroit also won the championship in
"This is an unfamiliar position -- being up here without a
bottle of champagne," Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer said as he
opened his postgame news conference. "We got beat by a team that
Deanna Nolan, who led the Shock with 27 points, said the team's
defense faltered early.
"Them making shots was part of it, but our defense wasn't
there, and we didn't get key rebounds," Nolan said.
Phoenix took some steam out of the home crowd, announced at more
than 22,000, by jumping to a 20-9 lead midway through the first
quarter. Taurasi had eight points, including two 3-pointers, in that
"We were due for a great game," Taurasi said. "Everything we
focused on all season kind of came into play."
The Mercury led by as many as 18 points in the second quarter
and led 55-43 at halftime. The teams set a finals scoring record
for combined points in a half.
Pondexter had 10 assists Sunday and made several key baskets in
the second half to squash any hopes of a Detroit comeback.
The Shock were the top seed in the WNBA's Eastern Conference,
while Phoenix was seeded No. 1 in the West.
The tight series was an entertaining contrast of styles.
Phoenix, the WNBA's top-scoring team, paid no attention to the shot
clock in coach Paul Westhead's run-and-gun system.
Westhead also won an NBA title as coach of the Los Angeles
Lakers in 1980.
"My players 27 years ago didn't worry about spraying me,"
Westhead said. "Today, everyone was gunning for me."
The early start was crucial, Westhead said.
"We put ourselves in a great position," he said. "You're hard
to beat scoring like that."
Detroit is more defensive-minded, and Laimbeer urged the Shock
to be more patient and physical several times during the series.
But the large deficit quickly took Detroit out of its game. The
Mercury's smallest lead in the second half was nine points.
Katie Smith had 18 points for Detroit, which committed 17
turnovers compared to only nine for the Mercury.