Mercury win 13th straight, clinch playoff berth
SEATTLE (AP) Diana Taurasi isn't focused on winning streaks. She's just trying to get the Phoenix Mercury to keep improving.
Taurasi scored 22 and Candice Dupree added 19 to help the Phoenix Mercury win their 13th straight game and clinch a playoff berth with an 89-71 victory over the Seattle Storm on Tuesday night.
Brittney Griner added 17 points, seven rebounds and five blocks for Phoenix (19-3), the first team to win 13 straight since the Storm in 2010 and the third longest win streak in league history. The Mercury are five shy of tying the Los Angeles Sparks' record of 18 consecutive set in 2001.
''We really don't talk about it,'' Taurasi said about the long winning streak. ''We're so focused on every little moment, whatever team we're playing, shoot-around, practice, the next game. If it keeps going, great, if not, hopefully we'll start another one.''
Phoenix hopes to win its third WNBA title this year to go with championships in 2007 and 2009.
''Everyone wants to win a championship that's what's it about,'' first-year Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. ''But we have to keep our feet on the ground. Championships are not won in July they are won in September this year. It's a long way to go. We've got a tough scheduled to finish the season off.''
Phoenix spoiled what the Storm billed as Championship Night with a halftime ceremony featuring trophies displayed from Seattle's two WNBA titles in 2004 and 2010, the SuperSonics 1979 Larry O'Brien Trophy and the Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII Lombardi Trophy. Earl Thomas carried the NFL trophy to midcourt while Slick Watts carried the NBA trophy.
The Mercury could have another trophy of their own this year.
''One small goal of our many goals that we have,'' Dupree said about clinching a playoff berth. ''Ultimately we want to have the best record in the league and the number one spot for the playoffs.''
Crystal Langhorne had 22 points and nine rebounds to lead Seattle (9-16), which dropped 2 1/2 games behind Los Angeles for the fourth andl final Western Conference playoff berth. The Storm have lost four of their last five and three in a row.
Seattle coach Brian Agler said the Mercury are tough to defend.
''I've been in this league a long time and they're one of the better offensive teams I've seen come through here,'' Agler said. ''I'm not talking about their numbers, how many points they score, I'm talking more or less on the pressure they put on you at a lot of different positions and how they space the floor. To beat a team like this you've got to really eliminate your mistakes.''
Seattle committed 22 turnovers to just 10 for the Mercury, so the mistakes were too many to overcome. Phoenix shot 53.8 percent (35 of 65) from the floor.
''We're a talented team and they're fun to coach because they love playing together,'' Brondello said. ''They're very unselfish. When we move the ball from one side to the other and inside and outside we're hard to guard.''
The Mercury won the first three meetings at home with the Storm by an average of 17.3 points. Phoenix is 9-2 on the road.