BY MIKE PEDEN
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.
Programs available for DVD purchase
Autism: The Wall That Knows No Limits - Award-winning documentary series providing insights on autism rarely seen in contemporary media. Produced by someone on the spectrum, this series is a wealth of information for anyone seeking to learn about autism.
$15 for one episode, $50 for the complete series (4 episodes)
What Are You? A Dialogue on Mixed Race - Originally a school assignment, this one-hour documentary explores a population that existed for many years but didn't get much focus until recently. This program examines how a small but growing segment of the population could shift racial and cultural identity. Screened at the 2009 Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival and will be screened at the inaugural Critical Mixed Race Studies conference at DePaul University. $15
From Vices to Verses: Featuring Voices Merging - From Vices to Verses: A New Era of Hip Hop and Action is a biannual conference held at the University of Minnesota. The goal is to promote the culture and history of hip-hop, which is often lost in the corporate mainstream representation. In this program, you'll see how the Voices Merging student group absorbed what they witnessed and how their experience will transform them as a group and as individuals. DVD copies come with 14 minutes of bonus footage not seen online or on TV. $15
Minnesota Machine: 2010 - Geared for Greatness - Join the professional women's football team in their historic 2nd season. Despite several injuries that depleted the roster, the Machine finished 2010 with a 6-3 record and their first division title in franchise history, edging the Iowa Thunder in the Midwest Division of the American Conference. This highlight reel includes clips from the 2010 season and their interview on the cable television show Rollin' and Tumblin' - $15
Silhouettes by RZI Couture - The inaugural breast cancer benefit fashion premiere took place in St. Paul and was met with a fabulous response. All the models were breast cancer survivors or relatives of someone affected by breast cancer and all the clothing was designed by Rosalyn Smaller, owner of RZI Couture and currently fighting breast cancer herself. The TV version features testimonials from the models and co-host Miss Georgia of KMOJ. $10 of every purchase will be donated to RZI Couture to help the breast cancer fight! $15