Question: How can a basketball team shoot far better than its opponent (50.8 percent to 43.9 percent), win the battle of the boards (33-30), commit close to the same number of turnovers (20-17) and still lose by eight?
The answer is free throws, a source of great aggravation for the Mercury the past two games.
The statistics above are from Phoenix's game Saturday at Sacramento, a 105-97 loss. While most of the final numbers favored the Mercury, the Monarchs prevailed thanks to a huge advantage at the charity stripe. Sacramento got to the line 12 more times than Phoenix, 43-31, and was a plus-11 in points, 39-28.
If such disparity were an aberration, the Mercury might be able to forget it, but their frustration was compounded Tuesday when they were able to get to the free-throw line just eight times compared with San Antonio's 26.
"It's ridiculous," guard Diana Taurasi said.
It's not as if Phoenix has struggled to get calls this season. It is sixth in the league in free-throw attempts per game (21.6). Individually, Cappie Pondexter (6.9) and Taurasi (6.1) are second and fourth in attempts, respectively.
However the inconsistency in calls has left the Mercury steaming and scratching their heads.
"I don't know. Maybe I said something wrong," coach Corey Gaines said before adding, "The refereeing is great, though. Make sure you write that down."
After combining to attempt 15 free throws Saturday, Pondexter and Taurasi got to the line just six times Tuesday.
"Someone who plays 35 minutes and shoots 20 times gets one foul (shot)?" said Taurasi reading off her stat line. "It's interesting."
Phoenix hasn't been shy about voicing its displeasure with the officiating while on the court, but beyond that the Mercury know there's nothing else they can do.
"That's out of our control," center Tangela Smith said. "We've just got to let it go and hopefully these next games, we can get those calls."