If the New York Liberty want to improve their chances of reaching the postseason, they'll likely have to figure out a way to stop her.
Phoenix heads to Madison Square Garden looking to wrap up the Western Conference's No. 1 seed Tuesday night with a win over the Liberty, who are battling for the final spot in the East.
Taurasi, who signed a multiyear contract extension Friday, has been the catalyst this season for the Mercury (26-4), who have set a team record for victories. One more over their final four games or a Minnesota loss will give them home court for the postseason.
Taurasi scored 24 and hit a jumper with 2.9 seconds left to give Phoenix an 82-80 win over the Lynx on Saturday.
''That's why she is the best player in the world,'' coach Sandy Brondello said.
Brondello knows opening each series on the Mercury's home floor is an accomplishment in itself, even though her ultimate goal is to win a championship.
"That's what you play for - all these regular season games at this point is to have home-court advantage," Brondello told the team's official website. "It's to be able to come into the playoffs and play in front of your fans. We're a little bit closer."
Brittney Griner had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and the second of her two blocks came in the final seconds to preserve the win.
''This was a playoff game,'' Griner said. "We weathered the storm, we kept coming back and then at the end, we pulled it off.''
The Liberty (13-17) should feel as if they're participating in postseason contests the rest of the way as well. They trail Indiana by one-half game for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East after being routed by the Fever 90-76 on Sunday.
New York trailed by 23 at one point as it lost for the second time in three games. It has another showdown with Indiana on the road Thursday, visits Washington on Saturday and closes the regular season the next night at home against the Fever.
''They definitely wanted it more,'' said center Tina Charles, who had 17 points but went 6 of 15 from the field. ''They saw where they were in the playoff race and wanted to get this one. We have to come out with that energy and intensity.''
Charles scored 20 points in the first meeting with the Mercury on July 26, but Griner had 18 and six blocks while Taurasi finished with 10 assists in Phoenix's 76-63 victory.
That contest was extremely physical, reminiscent of how Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer played for the Detroit Pistons during his NBA career. Griner picked up a flagrant foul, and Taurasi wasn't exactly pleased with the strategy.
''That 'Bad Boys' stuff, that's dead in the water,'' Taurasi said. ''That doesn't work anymore. That's such '80s basketball, but I guess they keep it rolling like that."
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- Diana Taurasi
- Phoenix Mercury
- New York Liberty
- the Liberty
- Sandy Brondello