Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mercury "triples" past Lynx for shootout win


Just your typical game between the Phoenix Mercury and Minnesota Lynx took place Wednesday at Target Center.

Defense is expected to be an afterthought when these two teams battle throughout the season, and the first of five match-ups for the two clubs offered a glimpse, with Phoenix earning a 112-105 road victory. The win gave Phoenix sole possession of first place in the Western Conference at 9-4, continuing their surge with their ninth win in the last ten games.

High scores are expected because no matter who players attempt to defend, both teams have far too much talent to quell an offensive riot. Ten players in all finished in double-figures, with the Mercury's Diana Taurasi scoring a game-high 27 points, including five three-pointers. She added eight assists for good measure.

"It really starts with (Candice Dupree) and (Temeka Johnson) and how they can get the tempo going and today, they did a really good job," Taurasi said. "We just got a couple more stops towards the end."

Utility player DeWanna Bonner added a season-high 24 points off the bench, including three treys and a 7-of-7 performance from the free throw line.

With most Mercury starters contributing early and often, Bonner's lone goal was continuing to feed the energy of the league's most prolific scoring team.

"(Minnesota) hit some big threes, got a couple lay-ups off of runs. We stuck together as a team," she said.

The Mercury jumped ahead quickly, leading by as much as 13 before the Lynx (7-4) warmed up from the floor. Minnesota sought to utilize their advantages in rebounding and turnovers, and were headed that way with a 91-80 lead with 6:31 left in the fourth quarter.

Phoenix responded with three consecutive three-pointers, taking the lead for good with 45.1 seconds left after Penny Taylor sank both free throws following a clear path foul by Seimone Augustus.

With Phoenix leading 108-105 with 13.3 seconds to go, there was a quick glimmer of hope for the 11,820 in attendance when Taylor missed the second of two free throw attempts. Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson misplayed the carom, sending the ball out-of-bounds and the Lynx's chance to win with it.

The loss marks the eleventh time in the last two seasons where the Lynx lost after leading by 10 points or more.

"Our defense was supposed to be our staple and we didn't have any of that tonight," said Brunson, who posted her eighth double-double of the season with 16 points and 16 rebounds.

Phoenix made sure of that by lighting up what was the best three-point defense in the league, sinking 14 of 27 from long distance while Minnesota made just 4 of 18, with rookie forward Maya Moore bricking all eight of her attempts.

"You expect them to make three-point shots, but the transition buckets, you can prevent those and it just didn't happen," said Augustus, who scored a team-high 22 points.

Minnesota will regroup quickly, as they prepare for their only back-to-back pairing of the season on Friday and Saturday, with the locker room aura reflecting their focus to correct errors.

"We have to get better at running people off the three-point line. We have to get better help," Brunson said.

The two-time WNBA champion Mercury already know about getting better, with no one sweating in the heat of losing the first three games of the season.

"We showed that we are a team that's banded together," Taurasi said.

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