MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury opened the season with three consecutive losses, so they had no problem keeping their cool when they trailed by 11 in the fourth quarter Wednesday.
Once they found their shooting touch, they were well on their way to another victory.
Taurasi scored 27 points, including five 3-pointers, and Phoenix rallied to beat the Minnesota Lynx 112-105 and take over sole possession of first place in the Western Conference.
Reserve DeWanna Bonner had 24 points for Phoenix, which has won five straight games and nine of 10 overall since its season-opening skid.
“After an 0-3 start, we didn’t panic,” Taurasi said. “We didn’t get too low. We knew we had to fix some things to get on a roll. You can’t get too low. You can’t get too high.”
Penny Taylor and Candice Dupree each had 19 points for the Mercury (9-4). Taylor scored 14 in the fourth quarter to help Phoenix overcome the big deficit.
“Today we showed that we are a team that’s banded together,” Taurasi said.
Minnesota (7-4) was in control before the Mercury put together a 22-8 run to take a 102-99 lead. Taylor had a tying 3-pointer during the surge.
The Lynx rallied to take a 103-102 lead on a layup by Lindsay Whalen, but Taylor stole the ball from Seimone Augustus, was fouled and made two free throws. Taurasi added three free throws to give Phoenix a 107-103 advantage.
“You’re at home. You’re up with five minutes to go. You have to try and extend it and we gave up probably three or four 3s in a row,” Whalen said. “When you’re up like that, you have to be able to close teams out. We have to be able to do that.”
Phoenix went 6 for 8 from 3-point range and 11 of 12 from the free-throw line in the fourth.
“There was a phase there where we could have just let it go,” Taylor said. “But we really came out and fought hard. The girls did a great job on the boards, which let us get out and run and we hit quite a few 3s. I was really proud of the way we fought back.”
The Mercury hit 14 3-pointers in the game.
“You can tell when Taurasi is going to be on her game,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said of watching Taurasi during pregame warmups. “It was something I knew. I was just hopeful Taylor wasn’t going to have a big game. When you play those guys, you can’t have them both on. If you have them both on, you have a problem. What we did let happen was let Bonner get off.”
Augustus led the Lynx with 22 points. Whalen added 19 points and Rebekkah Brunson had 16 points and 16 rebounds. Rookie Maya Moore had 15 points on 6-for-18 shooting from the field.
With thousands of kids in the arena for the Lynx’s annual “camp day,” Minnesota had a sluggish start and couldn’t keep up with the running Mercury.
Phoenix hit its first five shots en route to a 12-2 lead. Meanwhile, the Lynx missed five of their first six shots, allowing the Mercury to lead by as many as 13 in the first quarter.
Minnesota chipped away and closed the gap to 27-21 by the end of the period. The Lynx led 49-48 at halftime.
Featuring two of the top three scoring teams in the league, it lived up to its offensive billing. The output was reminiscent of last July, when Phoenix outlasted the Lynx 127-124 in double overtime in the highest-scoring game in WNBA history.
With the league’s top-scoring offense, Mercury coach Corey Gaines wasn’t worried about the slow start to the season. He knew Phoenix only needed time to develop.
“We always start off slow because we’re a different style team,” Gaines said. “They come from Europe and it’s like walk the ball up … nine passes, maybe take the shot on the 10th shot, if not go all the way through and work opposite. It takes time for your mind to switch over.”
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