Mercury-Lynx Preview


The Phoenix Mercury have bounced back nicely from their worst start in five seasons.

However, they still haven't found a way to defeat the Minnesota Lynx.

Phoenix will try to extend its longest winning streak in two seasons to six - and take over the top spot in the Western Conference - Sunday night against a Lynx team that's posted a franchise-record 13 consecutive victories at home.

Expectations were high after the Mercury (8-4) chose Baylor's Brittany Griner with the No. 1 overall pick, but they struggled to integrate the 6-foot-8 center into the offense. They averaged 77.0 points while opening 0-3 for the first time since an 0-4 start to 2008.

Phoenix, though, has picked up the pace, scoring 90.3 per game during an 8-1 run.

"(Starting with three losses is) not what we felt we deserved," Diana Taurasi, the league leader with 23.0 points per game, told the team's official website following Tuesday's 94-87 victory New York.

"We were working hard, but we weren't putting all the energy into the right place. I think now you can see it, you can feel it. And we'll just have to keep our heads low and keep grinding away."

Phoenix hasn't won six in a row since July 1-15, 2011. If that's going to change Sunday, the Mercury will have to snap a nine-game skid to Minnesota (7-3) which includes two losses in the 2011 West finals. Phoenix has dropped both meetings this season - 99-79 at Minneapolis on June 6 and 80-69 at home June 19 in its lowest-scoring game of the season.

Minnesota has split four games since then, getting routed twice at Los Angeles in that stretch. After losing 87-59 to the Sparks on June 21, the two-time defending West champs fell 96-66 on Tuesday. It was the most points Minnesota has surrendered since a 99-84 loss to San Antonio on Sept. 23.

"It's no surprise that that's why we're giving up so many the other way," said point guard Lindsay Whalen, among the league leaders with 5.2 assists per game. "Whether it's execution or turnovers (13) or whatever it is, we're not able to make it happen. I don't know what it is, but we need to figure it out on the road in general. It's about executing and taking care of the ball. You give up 94 points, it's going to be hard to win any game."

The Lynx, though, are 5-0 at home, holding teams to 73.6 points per game on 38.8 percent shooting. The Mercury hit 41.2 percent June 6 in their fifth consecutive loss - including the playoffs - at Minnesota.

Maya Moore is scoring 24.0 points per game against Phoenix this season, 7.2 more than her team-leading season average.

Taurasi leads all players in the two matchups with 49 points, while Griner has totaled 26 with 12 rebounds.

Phoenix's last victory in this series was 85-80 at home Aug. 9, 2011. That ended Minnesota's then-franchise record of nine straight wins.