Phoenix Mercury fall in late stages to Atlanta Dream

The Phoenix Mercury had the Atlanta Dream in its clutches after an exciting third quarter that bled into the final stretch.

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

“A lot of times it was three of us down there trying to get the ball and they wanted it more than we did and that’s why we got blown out,” Mercury guard Shey Peddy said.

Both teams were deadlocked at 73-73 at 5:11 in the fourth quarter, however, the Dream scored eight unanswered points in a three-minute span and held the Mercury to 12 points.

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The makeup of Sunday's was changed from injuries to both teams. The Mercury bench had to operate without spark plug Diamond DeShields available. DeShields was ruled out from a left hip injury sustained in Thursday’s game against the Washington Mystics.

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“It was tough. She comes in and gives you a lift defensively with intensity but also gets us out in transition. We got a couple things in transition tonight, but Diamond sort of pushes that phase," Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard said. "She’s been huge defensively in the back side and if Diamond was in the back of our zone today, it would’ve been a lot more difficult. These kind of injuries are part of the game unfortunately 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 out with a right shoulder injury. Monique Billings and Nia Coffey were also out with injuries.

Peddy created her own highlight reel in Sunday’s game with her halfcourt shot at the buzzer of the third quarter that punctuated her performance.

“It felt good. I usually make them sometimes in practice, but it did look good when it went in,” Peddy said.

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

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

It took awhile for the Mercury to find its rhythm after a timeout, leading the way for the Dream to score five straight points. The Dream found little trouble getting open 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 fell behind eight points in the second quarter, but rallied on a 9-1 scoring run with four trips to the charity stripe. The Dream weren’t as sharp from the floor in the period and shot 37.5 percent in the second quarter.

Brianna Turner had four of the Mercury's five blocks in the second quarter, leading the defensive efforts. The Mercury outscored the Dream 17-14 and tied the game at 41 going into the second half.

The Mercury couldn’t contain center Cheyenne Parker throughout the game as she attacked the interior and took advantage of smaller matchups. 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 some rebounds," Peddy said. "It was all getting in there and we’re small, but we got to do a better job of boxing out and a better job of making her uncomfortable. I think a lot of time she was moving freely."

The Mercury bench chipped in during the game with Jennie Simms putting in four points on 13:51 minutes and Megan Gustafson added five points.

Following the game, the Mercury will be on a five-day break before Friday's home game against the Seattle Storm at 7 p.m.

Reach the reporter at or 602-647-4122. Follow her on Twitter @jennarortiz.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: WNBA: Mercury unable to maintain momentum in loss to Atlanta Dream