Mercury unable to maintain momentum in loss to Atlanta Dream

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The Phoenix Mercury had the Atlanta Dream in its clutches after a thrilling third quarter that bled down the stretch.

However, Dream goaltender Erica Wheeler gave Mercury trouble in the final five minutes of the game, scoring 10 points and two 3-pointers to put the Dream ahead 85-75 in Sunday’s game at the Footprint Center.

“A lot of times there were three of us trying to get the ball back and they wanted it more than us and that’s why we blew ourselves up,” Mercury guard Shey Peddy said.

Both teams were tied at 73-73 at 5:11 into the fourth quarter, however, the Dream scored eight unanswered points in three minutes and held the Mercury to 12 points.

After:After eye and back surgeries, Diamond DeShields named ESPY Returning Player of the Year

Sunday’s roster has been changed due to injuries to both teams. The Mercury bench was to operate with no Diamond DeShields plug available. DeShields was ruled out with a left hip injury sustained in Thursday’s game against the Washington Mystics.

” It was hard. She comes in and gives you a defensive boost with intensity but also takes us out in transition. We have a few things in transition tonight but Diamond is kind of pushing that phase,” Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard said. “She’s been huge defensively at the back and if Diamond was at the back of our zone today, it would have been much more difficult. Those kinds of injuries are unfortunately part of the game and they had a lot of injuries as well.

For the Dream, playing without All-Star rookie guard Rhyne Howard was a big absence. Howard was injured in the right shoulder. Monique Billings and Nia Coffey were also injured.

Peddy created his own highlight reel in Sunday’s game with his half-court shot at the third quarter buzzer that punctuated his performance.

“It felt good. I usually do them sometimes in practice, but it looked good when it came in,” Peddy said.

Peddy led the Mercury shooters with three 3-pointers and dished out five assists with six rebounds. Peddy finished 16 points behind Diana Taurasi’s record 23 points.

Smaller matchups for both teams made for a high flying start. The Dream came strong on the 3-point line with two 3-pointers in the first five minutes.

It took the Mercury a while to find their groove after a timeout, paving the way for the Dream to score five straight points. The Dream had little trouble opening up on the perimeter and went 4 for 5. Kristy Wallace came off the bench to shoot two of the 3-pointers for the Dream

The Mercury trailed eight points in the second quarter but rallied on a 9-1 run with four trips to the charity strip. The Dream wasn’t as sharp from the floor during the period and shot 37.5% in the second quarter.

Brianna Turner had four of Mercury’s five blocks in the second quarter, leading the defensive effort. Mercury outscored Dream 17-14 and tied the game at 41 early in the second half.

The Mercury couldn’t contain center Cheyenne Parker throughout the game as she attacked inside and took advantage of smaller games. Parker shot 10 for 13 from the field and controlled the boards with 11 rebounds, while leading the Dream with 21 points

“I think she did a really good job of finding her spots. She’s a tough player, she was getting rebounds,” Peddy said. “It was all there and we’re small, but we have to do a better job of boxing and a better job of making her uncomfortable. I think most of the time she was moving freely.”

The Mercury bench contributed during the game with Jennie Simms scoring four points in 13:51 minutes and Megan Gustafson adding five points.

After the game, the Mercury will take a five-day break before Friday’s home game against the Seattle Storm at 7 p.m.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 602-647-4122. Follow her on Twitter @jennarortiz.

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