WNBA

Mercury-Storm Preview

Having put their early season struggles behind, the Phoenix Mercury can now concentrate on re-establishing their dominance over the Seattle Storm.

The Mercury head to Seattle for Friday night's matchup with a two-game winning streak and an opportunity to avenge a surprising home loss to the Storm two weeks back.

Of all the outcomes during the Mercury's unexpected 0-4 start, none was more surprising than an 81-80 defeat to Seattle on May 20. The Storm ended nine straight losses in the series by holding Phoenix to 37.5 percent shooting and rallying from an early 13-point deficit.

Phoenix (2-4) played closer to its expected status as a title contender over the final two games of the homestand. After shooting 53.2 percent and receiving 28 points from Diana Taurasi in Sunday's 93-77 win over Washington, all five starters finished in double figures in Tuesday's 99-90 victory over Connecticut.

The Mercury overcame a 14-point second-quarter deficit against the Sun by taking care of the ball and shooting nearly flawlessly from the foul line. They committed just four turnovers while forcing 21 and went 27 of 31 on free throws, with Brittney Griner finishing 9 for 9 while recording a season-high 21 points.

"One thing we do have is veterans on this team that have been through it all," Taurasi said. "Games like this you could easily let go and kind of just put your head down and stop."

Phoenix felt it let one get away against the Storm, as it missed its final seven shots and failed to stop Jewell Loyd down the stretch. The 2015 WNBA Rookie of the Year scored 12 of her career-high 30 points in the fourth quarter and banked in a go-ahead 12-footer with 2.9 seconds left.

Loyd's play has been the X-factor for Seattle (2-4), as she's amassed 56 points and shot 56.8 percent in the Storm's two wins and averaged 13.5 points while missing 12 of 13 3-point tries in their four losses. She was held to 11 points in Wednesday's 85-75 defeat at Indiana, where the Fever went 13 for 17 from the floor during a 31-point second quarter and led by as many as 22 in the third.

"In the second quarter they had a lot of energy, a lot of aggressiveness and we never matched it," Seattle's Sue Bird said. "It seemed like they were just constantly coming at us."

Breanna Stewart, the league's Rookie of the Month for May, had 22 points Wednesday and is averaging 19.3 over her last three games. The 2016 No. 1 overall pick was held to 4-of-15 shooting in last month's meeting with Phoenix.

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