4:00 PM ET, June 27, 2010
The Phoenix Mercury figured they might have trouble adjusting to the offseason trade of one of the league's leading scorers. They certainly didn't think they'd still be struggling after two months.The Mercury's up-tempo style hasn't led to any success lately, and they'll try to avoid their first four-game losing streak in more than two years Sunday afternoon when they visit the stingy Washington Mystics.Phoenix (5-8) is averaging just a half-point less than it did last season with Cappie Pondexter -- dealt to New York in March -- but the standings show the WNBA champions are hardly adjusting well to life without the three-time All-Star.The Mercury lost their third straight game by three points or fewer Friday night at Connecticut, shooting 37.9 percent in an 82-79 defeat. Their last four-game losing streak opened the 2008 season."We have a lot of things to clean up," said Diana Taurasi, who had a team-high 26 points. "We are not playing at the level we need to be at, but it's a long summer and a lot of games."Taurasi leads the league with 23.3 points per game -- 2.9 more than she averaged last season while sharing the backcourt with Pondexter -- but she's also attempting nearly three more shots than she did in 2009. Some of them seem to be forced, as her 39.8 percent shooting is well below her career average.Taurasi has averaged 27.0 points in leading Phoenix to wins at Washington in each of the last two seasons, but the Mystics (8-5) have won five of six home in 2010 -- three by at least 15 points.After sweeping a three-game homestand, though, Washington couldn't stretch its overall winning streak to five Friday in Chicago. The Mystics, who allow a league-low 71.7 points per game, lost 79-72 despite getting 25 points from Crystal Langhorne."We missed a lot of shots and their interior defense was very good," coach Julie Plank said.Langhorne has averaged 26.0 points and 13.5 rebounds in her last two games, and her size figures to be a problem for a Phoenix team that allows opponents to grab a league-high 40.0 boards per game. Langhorne averaged 17.5 points and 12.0 rebounds against the Mercury last season, and helped the Mystics win the rebounding battle 46-26 in a 10-point win at Phoenix.Langhorne, though, could use some offensive help from Monique Currie. The team's second-leading scorer (15.6 ppg) has averaged 8.0 in her last three games, shooting 29.0 percent.These teams meet again Thursday in Phoenix.