Even without two key performers, the Phoenix Mercury are rolling along and seemingly on the verge of clinching a playoff spot.
The Mercury looks for a season-high fifth consecutive victory on Thursday night against the Indiana Fever, mired in a five-game slide, at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Even with Brittney Griner (17.7 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game) no longer in the "Wubble" for personal reasons and Bria Hartley (14.6 ppg) done for the season because of a knee injury, Phoenix (10-7) is playing some of its best basketball of 2020. The Mercury have won four in a row for the second time this season and play their next four games against teams currently sporting losing records.
"It's by committee," Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello told ESPN on her team's approach and execution without two of its top players. "It's everyone playing their role to the best of their ability."
While that's certainly the case with the likes of Kia Vaughn and Skylar Diggins-Smith stepping up, perhaps another big reason for Phoenix's recent success is superstar Diana Taurasi (19.1 ppg, 5.1 assists per game, 4.8 rebounds per game). Taurasi dropped 26 of her 32 points in the first half of Tuesday's 92-85 win over Las Vegas. She finished 10 of 22 from the field and made seven of her 15 3-point attempts – half of the total made by Phoenix on the night.
Taurasi, who scored 34 points in a win over Washington on Aug. 23, has totaled 55 points in the last two games. Skylar Diggins-Smith (16.5 ppg) added 20 points for the Mercury, who hope for a better effort than the last time they faced Indiana in July.
Phoenix actually shot 49.3 percent in that 106-100 loss to the Fever on July 29, and Griner and Hartley combined 49 points. Taurasi and Diggins-Smith, meanwhile, totaled 18 points. However, that was when the Mercury were apparently still trying to find their way with some new pieces in the mix.
Indiana (5-12) made 51.4-percent of its shots in that contest, with Candace Dupree (12.1 ppg) scoring 23 points and Teaira McCowan (10.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg) adding 20 with 13 boards off the bench.
McCowan has played well of late, totaling 35 points and 18 rebounds in the last two contests. Unfortunately, the Fever have dropped their last five games by a combined average of 12.6 points.
McCowan and Kelsey Mitchell (17.6 ppg) scored 20 each, but the Fever allowed Atlanta to shoot 53.6 percent during a 102-90 loss on Tuesday.