Coming off back-to-back victories, the Seattle Storm may be able to pick up even more steam in their final postseason tuneup.
The visiting Storm try for a fifth win in six meetings with the hapless Phoenix Mercury, who hope to avoid setting a franchise record with their 27th loss in the teams’ season finale Sunday.
Three days after beating Chicago 75-60, Seattle (15-18) held San Antonio to 36.5 percent shooting in an 84-75 victory Friday. Katie Smith had a team-high 16 points while Lauren Jackson scored 11 and shot 5 of 7, becoming the fourth player to reach 6,000 points.
Jackson, who missed the first half of the season while training for and playing in the Olympics for Australia, logged 11 minutes after sitting out the previous three games with a strained left hamstring. She has struggled to regain her MVP form in eight games since returning, though she didn’t appear slowed by the injury Friday.
“I thought it was the best she’s played rhythm-wise since she’s been back,” coach Brian Agler said. “(She) played a really good pace. Obviously she was moving well and shot the ball well.”
While Jackson figures to see plenty of action against Minnesota once the playoffs get underway, her minutes could be tightly limited again Sunday - much to her dismay.
“I think as a team we need to be playing together,” she said. “Heading into the playoffs, every minute we can get is important at this point.”
The Storm, though, may not need Jackson to go all out against the Mercury (7-26), losers of six in a row and 17 of 20. Phoenix has been especially bad in its last three games, getting outscored by an average of 26.3 points.
The Mercury’s woes continued Friday in an 89-66 loss to the Lynx. DeWanna Bonner had 17 points while Samantha Prahalis scored 14, but Phoenix was limited to 36.2 percent shooting and outscored 27-12 in the second quarter.
Fresh off signing a multiyear extension, Candice Dupree had eight points and seven rebounds in her second game back after missing 21 due to knee surgery.
Phoenix may need Dupree to pick up the pace if it wants to snap its skid and avoid setting a single-season team record for defeats.
The Mercury, who beat Seattle in the Western Conference semifinals last season, had dropped four straight regular-season meetings by an average of 15.8 points before taking the last one 75-68 on Aug. 30. Bonner had 24 points and 11 rebounds while Diana Taurasi added 13 points despite going 3 of 13 from the field.
Averaging a career-low 14.0 points while playing in just eight games this season, Taurasi has missed the last five contests. Her status for Sunday is uncertain.