Diana Taurasi and the surging Phoenix Mercury started the post-Olympic break in impressive fashion. The Mercury backed up a blowout of the Dallas Wings on Friday with an upset of the first-place Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday.
Taurasi scored 26 points and the Mercury defense forced 21 turnovers in the win over the Sparks. Phoenix has won four of five heading into Tuesday's road test against the Indiana Fever.
Unlike the Mercury, the Fever did not get off to the start they were hoping for after returning from the monthlong Olympic break. Indiana was blown out by the Washington Mystics 92-69 on Friday at home. The loss snapped the Fever's three-game winning streak.
"I'm disappointed in our effort," Indiana coach Stephanie White told the Indianapolis Star after the loss to the Mystics. "For whatever reason, we lost our energy and intensity in the second half."
Indiana (12-13) is in sixth place in the league standings. The top eight teams, regardless of conference, qualify for the postseason. White said her team still needs to generate a playoff effort in the final 10 games of the season.
"We have to put that energy, that effort, that urgency out there," White told reporters. "We can't turn that on when the lights turn on. We have to do that day in and day out."
Phoenix (12-14) is in seventh place entering Tuesday's game, a half-game behind the Fever.
Taurasi is fourth in the WNBA in scoring, averaging 18.9 points per game. She was held to 13 points in an ugly loss to the Fever in July.
Indiana has won the two previous meetings with the Mercury this season, including a 78-60 rout on July 8 in Phoenix. The Fever turned 27 Mercury turnovers into 38 points and outscored them 30-10 in the third quarter to pull away.
The Fever have won the last four meetings with Phoenix. The Mercury's last victory in the series came in August 2014.
Tuesday's game marks the beginning of the final 10 games of Indiana standout Tamika Catchings' career. The future Hall of Famer has announced she is retiring after the season. White is also leaving after the season to become the coach at Vanderbilt.