The Mercury (19-14) is locked into the third seed in the West and will face the Los Angeles Sparks in the best-of-three first round playoff series next week.
But first, Phoenix had to take care of the Silver Stars (11-22).
The Mercury initiated a 9-0 run to open the game’s first two and half minutes, and the lead swelled to 15-2 and 18-4, before a 25-10 lead was established at the end of the first quarter. A Danielle Adams three cut it to six midway through the second, but Phoenix held a 40-31 edge at halftime.
Shameka Christon knocked down a three five minutes into the third quarter to chip into Phoenix’s lead, 50-45, and moments later Jia Perkins would make it a four-point game with one of her own. DeWanna Bonner and Diana Taurasi quickly converted five points unanswered to the result of a San Antonio timeout, and that was the end of the comeback attempt.
“We want to get some people some rest, but you don’t want to pull your foot off the accelerator to the point where you are not getting good reps,” Mercury coach Russ Pennell said. “We’re really trying to run some motion type offenses, it gives our players a chance to lead the situation more. People like Taurasi and (Penny) Taylor are so smart, a lot of times the worst thing you can do is handcuff them with a whole bunch of sets.”
One of the top plays of the season occurred in the fourth quarter, as Taurasi batted an Alexis Hornbuckle pass to an open Taylor on the perimeter, who sank a three.
Taylor scored 10 points with seven rebounds and four assists in her third game back since missing 13 with a knee injury.
“We’re getting some momentum at the right time, where we need it,” Taylor said. “There’s not one selfish player on this team. I feel good, it’s a process of getting the wind back in my lungs, but as far as my knees feel, I feel great, it’s a lot of fun to be out there.”
Taurasi finished with 20 points and 10 assists – passing Katie Smith for ninth all-time in the process, Brittney Griner scored 13, and Hornbuckle, Candice Dupree, Krystal Thomas, and Lynetta Kizer all finished with eight points. Thomas collected a team-high eight rebounds.
Adams and Shenise Johnson tied for the Silver Stars’ high with 11 points, and Jayne Appel grabbed 10 boards.
“We gave a great effort,” Adams said. “We just kind of slipped up there at the end, and they got some wide-open shots that we couldn’t get to.”
The Mercury and Sparks will close the regular season at noon Sunday at Staples Center, a prescursor to the playoff series. The Silver Stars host the Dream Sunday, as their injury-plagued nightmare season ends.
“It’s an opportunity for us to get better, and I was listening to the game last night, and (Sparks coach) Carol Ross is saying the same thing,” Pennell said. “Her team is trying to peak at the right time, they beat a really good Minnesota team last night, I think we can get a free look, and they get a free look at us. We’re certainly going over to win the ball game.”
Game One of the playoff series is at 7 p.m. Sept. 19 on ESPN2 in Los Angeles, Game Two will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at Phoenix televised on NBATV, and an if necessary Game Three would be at 7 p.m. Sept. 23 back in California. Minnesota and Seattle are meeting in the other Western Conference series.