With both teams having already been eliminated from playoff contention, the Phoenix Mercury and Tulsa Shock are surely starting to look toward next year.
Neither, however, seems likely to carry much momentum into 2013 if their recent efforts are any indication.In a matchup between the worst teams in the Western Conference, Phoenix could be without Diana Taurasi again Friday night as it tries for a seventh consecutive home victory over the Shock.While the Mercury (7-22) appeared to have gotten on track by taking three of four following a franchise-worst 10-game losing streak, their struggles have recently resumed. After falling 89-83 at Indiana on Sunday, Phoenix lost 100-78 at home Wednesday to East-leading Connecticut.DeWanna Bonner posted a team-high 24 points for the Mercury, whose 21 turnovers led to 25 points for the Sun."When we don't score, our defense suffers. When we score, defense goes well," said coach Corey Gaines, whose team was outscored 57-33 in the second half.Phoenix continues to play without Penny Taylor (torn ACL) and Candice Dupree (knee surgery) and didn't have Samantha Prahalis (right shoulder) available either Wednesday. Gaines also chose to hold Taurasi out, leaving the five-time All-Star's status unknown for this game.Taurasi is averaging a career-low 14.0 points in eight games this season."Well we're out of the playoffs mathematically," Gaines said, "and she's played a lot of games over all these years -- Europe, WNBA, Olympics, week off, Europe, WNBA, worlds -- she needs a rest."While Phoenix had taken the previous five home matchups in this series by an average of 20.4 points, the Taurasi-less Mercury had a hard time putting the Shock (6-23) away during a 79-72 victory June 3."They're gonna come here and try to win, we both out of the playoffs right now," said Bonner, averaging 20.9 points to rank second in the league. "It's just gonna be two people trying to get a win, cause (it's been a) tough season, so you're trying to end on a good note."Tulsa is coming off its fourth consecutive loss, 78-67 at home to San Antonio on Wednesday. Glory Johnson had 18 points while Ivory Latta recorded 17 off the bench for the Shock, who were outscored 51-27 over the first two quarters."You can't just play 20 minutes in this league," coach Gary Kloppenburg said. "For whatever reason, we came out flat, with low energy and let them do whatever they wanted in the first half. It's hard to dig out of a huge hole like that."Tulsa plays four of its final five games on the road, where it's 1-12.