Penny Taylor scored 17 of her season-high 23 points in the second quarter to send the Phoenix Mercury into the All-Star break with a 101-85 win over the Connecticut Sun, its 12th-consecutive win, Thursday night at US Airways Center.
Connecticut (10-14), which was the most recent team to defeat the Mercury, 96-95 June 12, received 23 points from Katie Douglas, the 35-year-old All-Star who played just four games due to a back injury last season for Indiana.
The 101 points were also a season-high for the first-place Mercury (18-3), and the team needs only one more win to clinch a playoff berth.
“I’m happy with how everything is going,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more in my first year. I have a great bunch of girls, it makes my job a little easier in that regard, they have great chemistry, they enjoy playing with each other and enjoy each other off the court.”
The Mercury led 22-14 after the first quarter, which ended on an Erin Phillips buzzer beater. The second quarter belonged to Taylor, who at one point scored 12 straight of Phoenix’s points. She was 7-of-8 with three rebounds and three assists in the period, and the Mercury went up 51-39 at halftime.
“We’re finding ways to be effective, and it’s not always the easy way,” Taylor said. “We have so many players on this team with high basketball IQs, and for me that’s so much fun. There’s nothing better than everyone being unselfish and making the right basketball plays.”
Down 14 in the late second, the Sun cut it to 55-50 on an Alyssa Thomas jump shot, only to be answered with a Diana Taurasi three on the ensuing possession. The third ended with Renee Montgomery sending Shay Murphy to the line to shoot three free throws with 0.4 seconds left, but she only connected on the final to produce a 76-61 lead. Douglas scored 10 in the third.
Alex Bentley scored 10 of her 20 in the fourth and Chiney Ogwumike eight of her 14, but the Sun could not close the gap. Ogwumike also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for the night, and Douglas dished six assists.
Brittney Griner added 21 points for the Mercury, Taurasi scored 14 with six assists, and Candice Dupree notched 14 points and seven rebounds. Playing against her former team, Mistie Bass scored nine and grabbed seven.
The All-Star Game, featuring Taurasi, Griner, Dupree, Ogwumike, and Douglas, will tip off at 12:30 p.m. PT Saturday at US Airways Center. Following the break, the Mercury will be at Seattle July 22 and Los Angeles July 24 before returning home to face the New York Liberty July 26. The Sun will be at Washington July 23.
“I’m looking forward to playing in front of the home crowd, being able to actually play,” Griner said of this weekend. “Last year I couldn’t play, and this year I’m able to get out on the court and put on a show.”
One other note, Ivory Latta (Washington/East) and Sue Bird (Seattle/West) will replace the injured Elena Delle Donne and Seimone Augustus in the All-Star Game. The Mystics and Storm were previously the only teams without players in the event.