No games in the WNBA today, so we’re on to the ninth edition of Classic WNBA Monday. In case you missed any of the first eight:
This is the last Classic WNBA Monday this year, as the regular season winds down with back-to-back weeks with Monday games. With that in mind, I figured I had to go back to a great Finals game, and Game 5 of the 2007 WNBA Finals is the choice for today.
The Phoenix Mercury had not made a postseason appearance since 2000, but they were best in the West with Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter, and Penny Taylor, coached by Paul Westhead. The Detroit Shock were coming off their second WNBA title, coached by Bill Laimbeer with an elite roster including Deanna Nolan, Katie Smith, and Swin Cash. Cheryl Ford’s status was a bit up-in-the-air with an injury, and Nolan is dealing with a lower leg injury, so there’s some uncertainty there they give further detail on in the broadcast.
Speaing of which, Terry Gannon, Doris Burke, and Geno Auriemma are on the call, and Rebecca Lobo is reporting on the sideline.
Click here for the game:
- 9:35 1st, 3:29 video: This is just too easy for Penny Taylor, backing down Swin Cash in the post to get an easy two to start.
- 8:38 1st, 5:13 video: If Deanna “Tweety” Nolan’s knee isn’t 100%, having Cappie Pondexter take her one-on-one off the bounce is a good way to test her. Cappie knocks down the fade-away mid-range shot like she did so many times in her career.
- 8:06 1st, 5:46 video: Here’s the Shock’s advantage, with Feenstra in the paint. She’s able to turn slowly and just put the ball in over the top of three Mercury players around her.
- 7:22 1st, 6:57 video: Diana Taurasi runs the baseline perfectly here, forcing her defender in to a wall here for the three off the sideline inbounds. The Shock didn’t have their switching figured out quickly enough to contest the shot.
- 6:22 1st, 8:55 video: Again, somehow the Shock lose Taurasi on the baseline, but the story here is Tangela Smith’s laser pass from the top of the key. Tangela doesn’t show up on your Top 25 lists, but she could really do a little bit of everything.
- 6:09 1st, 9:08 video: I’ve rewatched a lot of Shannon Johnson in this series, and she is always finding ways to make tough shots like this when the offense is stagnant.
- If my count is right, before we got to the first media timeout the Shock had already brought in three players off the bench, while the Mercury still have their starting five rolling. You get a good shot of Bill Laimbeer and Shock assistant coach Cheryl Reeve laughing at what they thought was a bad call as the game goes to break.
- 4:24 1st, 12:48 video: This is Cappie’s second season, and her getting the ball up top on the move like this had to strike fear in the opposition. She takes it in for a short jumper, again.
- 3:46 1st, 13:44 video: We had a couple of these in the recent ABL rewatch, but this is a good look at Katie Smith moving without the ball and letting the defense lose her on the left wing. Swish.
- 3:09 1st, 14:32 video: Remember what I said about Tangela? Here’s your 6‘3 center for the trail three. Feenstra isn’t getting out there. Stay tuned for Katie Smith getting herself open for three again to match.
- 2:15 1st, 16:46 video: Kelly Mazzante mostly shoots threes (89% of her attempts are from beyond the arc at this point in her career), but this one is tough even for her. On the move and nails it. First player off the bench for the Mercury and by far the most productive in this game.
- 1:12 1st, 18:18 video: Pondexter at the top with the ball. Yeah, I’m scared. She ends with a pass in the paint to Taylor that you’ll want to watch a couple of times.
- 22.6 1st, 19:50 video: This time Pondexter gets the ball in transition, head up, finds Schumacher running to the rim.
- 8:31 2nd, 23:31 video: It’s just too bad Nolan isn’t 100% in this game. You see it in this shot, another one that comes up short for her and on the landing it looks like she’s wincing and doubled over. Stay tuned for another Mazzante three, this time in transition.
- 7:51 2nd, 25:06 video: Penny Taylor: always moving, always strong to the basket. Stay tuned to Nolan telling me, from the past: “You said I’m hurt?”
- 6:27 2nd, 28:58 video: The rookie Ivory Latta gets an open three, but this is all about Plenette Pierson, who gets the offensive rebound for the putback here. Just a tough player. With Reeve on the sideline and Smith and Pierson on the roster, the Shock here are just a precuror to the Minnesota Lynx coaching staff. (Latta will make good on a three in a couple possessions.)
- 2:23 2nd, 36:40 video: Tangela off the bounce with the jumper to beat the shot clock
- 1:35 2nd, 37:28 video: Just go re-read what I said about Shannon Johnson before. And then, as the Mercury go in to their possession, re-read what I said about Mazzante earlier.
- 9:20 3rd, 45:28 video: How does Penny Taylor make this look so easy? In this game especially, she seems to be able to get a shot wherever she wants it… and I can’t help but laugh when about 30 seconds later Rebecca Lobo mentions in her report from talking to Laimbeer that he specifically called out that they need to stop Taylor from creating off the dribble. Whoops!
- 8:29 3rd, 46:38 video: Off the miss, the pass-ahead goes to Cappie, who takes it all the way around Nolan. Then just stick around for the Shock to give the ball up to Cappie again, who gets a pull-up in transition this time.
- 6:56 3rd, 50:44 video: Kelly Miller doesn’t really do anything flashy, but there have been a few moments this game where she has simply been ready and taken the shot when it’s hers. She drains one here out of a drive-and-kick.
- 6:42 3rd, 50:58 video: From the beginning it was clear the Shock’s advantage was in the post, and Cheryl Ford is battling to get position and the ball. You can see some frustration after this possession ends without a touch and with an airball. They have to get her the ball.
- 5:28 3rd, 52:55 video: This is how content the Mercury are to let Shannon Johnson shoot. She has made them pay a few times now, but I’d guess Phoenix is more than happy to give up this two with the lead and firepower they have.
- 2:51 3rd, 58:48 video: This Mercury team in transition has too many options, but this one’s simple: Kara Braxton isn’t going to be able to keep up with Taurasi here.
- 2:40 3rd, 58:59 video: Every now and then we get these little flashes of Tweety’s pop, but the Shock aren’t getting back in to it without some stops.
- 2:02 3rd, 1:01:29 video: Feenstra posts up against Penny Taylor and scores easily, exactly what the Shock need. But as I was typing that Taurasi got down the court and splashed a three. This game in a nutshell.
- 9:13 4th, 1:07:28 video: How do you lose Mazzante? I assume that’s what Laimbeer’s thinking when they cut to him right after that shot.
- 8:50 4th, 1:07:51 video: Detroit plays this zone, and Phoenix just moves the ball until they get Cappie a three she can step in to. Swish.
- 8:21 4th, 1:08:20 video: I guess the Mercury got tired of threes, so let’s go back to that “Give Cappie the ball” play. She sees the big open space in the middle of the floor, gets right to it and makes a pretty move for the and-one.
- 6:25 4th, 1:11:41 video: Taurasi and Taylor just confuse the Shock with this screening in the paint. Pondexter delivers the perfect pass to Taurasi for the layup.
- 4:59 4th, 1:15:07 video: Shannon Johnson with a couple of vet plays here: first, getting the ball up to Tweety, who then creates a quick shot and drains it. Then, she forces a turnover to get the ball back, keeping this game exciting.
- 4:18 4th, 1:17:40 video: Every time I see Cappie start with the ball out here, I assume Phoenix is about to score. She makes good on that here. Plus one.
- 3:29 4th, 1:18:57 video: This pass is well of the mark, but Smith is still able to just about pick it up off the floor and hit the three. Phoenix’s defense is so far off she still has plenty of time to get the shot off.
- It’s mostly free throws from here as Detroit tries to lengthen the game, while Tweety and Katie hit a couple of threes, but it’s too late.
- 33.1 4th, 1:27:47 video: If you thought Tangela could only hit trail threes, here’s a pick-and-pop three to close out a championship.
- Postgame, 1:30:37 video: What a masterful dig at Geno Auriemma from Lobo to start that interview with Taurasi. Also, has anyone ever followed up on Taurasi’s comment: “The WNBA is the highest level of basketball. And to [win a championship] with people that you truly love is a lot different than doing it with people you don’t like.”
Cappie Pondexter finished with 26 points and 10 assists, the only player with 25/10 in a WNBA Playoffs game until her teammate Diana Taurasi did so in 2018. Pondexter is still the only player to do so in the WNBA Finals. Cappie walked off as Finals MVP.
Penny Taylor led the Mercury with 30 points, including a perfect 18-18 from the free throw line. She tied Yolanda Griffith (2001) with the most made free throws in a postseason WNBA game, and she set the Finals record.
Loss aside, Deanna Nolan finished with 27 points, so injury-schminjury, I suppose. Ah well, next year will end better for Tweety.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the game, and enjoy your Monday!