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Mercury runs win streak to 15, survives third quarter comeback from Liberty

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The Phoenix Mercury extended its winning streak to 15, as Diana Taurasi and Candice Dupree each picked up double-doubles in Saturday’s 78-63 home victory over the New York Liberty (10-14).

The win tied Phoenix (21-3) with the 1998 Houston Comets for the second-longest winning streak all-time behind the 2001 Los Angeles Sparks’ 18 consecutive, and it also clinched home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

“We get pretty confident in what needs to be done,” Taurasi said. “That goes to Sandy (Brondello) and the coaching staff, they really do get us really prepared for every game, every tendency of their (the other teams’) best players.”

Taurasi registered all of her 15 points and 10 assists in the first three quarters, Dupree had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Brittney Griner almost joined them with 18 points, eight rebounds and six blocks. New York center Tina Charles led all scorers with 20 points and also grabbed seven boards.

After leading by six, 22-16 after the first quarter, Phoenix capitalized on a 13-4 run to start the second that began with back-to-back threes from Penny Taylor, who scored 10 points for the night. At the half, the Mercury was shooting 57 percent, as opposed to the Liberty’s 33 percent.

Down as many as 19, the Liberty would come back to within 55-48 at 2:30 left in the third, only to be quieted from a Taurasi three out of the timeout. Swin Cash just missed the clock expiring with a three, and the Mercury held a nine-point edge after the third. Charles scored eight during the 18-6 Liberty run.

“We played out of our game,” Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. “It wasn’t our normal game for whatever reason, we were quick shooting, taking shots we don’t normally shoot, not getting any offense. I told them, we have to run our stuff, and you’ll get good looks in the second half, they just didn’t go in.”

Phoenix opened the fourth on a 13-4 run, and the benches were cleared with 3 minutes and a 20-point separation. Former Mercury forward Charde Houston received a respectable ovation and was 2-for-2 in the final two minutes.

“Once we got our composure, and we limited to only one shot for each possession, it helps us get out, and then we can execute our offense,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said.

Cappie Pondexter added 12 points for the Liberty, and another former Phoenix player – Avery Warley-Talbert – grabbed nine off the glass.

The Liberty was 1-of-12 from beyond the arc during the game, while Phoenix was 5-of-14.

“We were just missing shots,” Pondexter said. “We were all playing against Griner, we know what she’s capable of, and we know that they’re a long team.”

The Mercury will look for No. 16 in a row at 7 p.m. Tuesday versus the Sparks on ESPN2, while the Liberty will host the Mystics at 4 p.m. the same night.

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