The Mercury (14-13) is now only half a game ahead of the Storm (13-13) for third place in the Western Conference, as Diana Taurasi was limited to 4-of-13 shooting and is a combined 14-of-45 in the four losses to Seattle this season.
“They made it really hard to do anything on the offensive end,” said Taurasi, who still finished with 16 points. “Defensively, I thought we did well in the second half, we limited them to some tough shots. The way things were going, it was pretty hard to get any kind of footing out there.”
As a team, Phoenix shot 47 percent, better than Seattle’s 42 percent, but still committed 16 turnovers.
“The bad thing about a turnover – and this is what drives basketball coaches nuts – you can’t rebound a turnover,” Mercury coach Russ Pennell said. “You can take a bad shot and throw the ball up on the backboard, you can throw it over your head, at least that’s a reboundable ball. When you turn it over, you don’t even get a chance to get an offensive rebound.”
The first quarter ended in a 21-21 lock, with Temeka Johnson scoring 13 of her season-high and game-high 23 points for Seattle, and DeWanna Bonner recording 10 of her Mercury-leading 20.
The Storm took over in the second quarter with a balanced attack, and Noelle Quinn’s three form the corner with 2:30 remaining in the half seemed like a dagger, putting it up 12. Seattle led 44-34 at halftime, and the Mercury would never get within seven again.
“It was a total team effort and we came away with a victory,” said the 5-foot-3 Johnson, who only played 22 minutes. “I just take what they gave me. With the press they have, you have to come out and put them on their toes.”
In her final game in Phoenix, future Hall of Famer Tina Thompson scored 18 and tied Shekinna Stricklen with a game-high seven rebounds. Already the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, Friday she passed Taj McWilliams-Franklin for second place on the league’s career rebounding list, trailing only Lisa Leslie (by about 300).
“We do everything we can to not let Diana going because once she gets it going, it’s really tough to stop her,” said the 38-year-old Thompson who is retiring at season’s end. “She’s always our main focus. Our games are usually pretty physical because we like to play in our opponent’s space.”
Camille Little also scored 17 for the Storm, and Candice Dupree had 17 and Brittney Griner 12 for Phoenix.
The Mercury will not play again until 7 p.m. Aug. 31, when the Connecticut Sun visits US Airways Center. The Storm is at San Antonio on both Sunday and Tuesday.
“After this week, it’s a tough stretch for us,” Taurasi said. “We have a lot of games in a limited number of days, so it’s just a balance of rest and at the same time, finding a way to get better as a team. I think we need this week.”