Taurasi drains five 3-pointers to lead Mercury past Monarchs

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Phoenix Mercury standout Diana Taurasi
was ejected from the previous meeting with the Sacramento Monarchs
two weeks ago, but she managed to stick around for the entire game
Saturday night.

It was a good thing, too. Phoenix made good use of their
talented star, who had 26 points, eight assists and six rebounds in
defeating the Monarchs 74-70.

"Stuff happens, the last time we played them I lost my cool a
little bit," said Taurasi, who was ejected from the game in the
second quarter of Phoenix's comeback victory at home. "I got some
good looks tonight and was able to knock them down."

A gifted scorer with an all-around game, Taurasi was a difficult
puzzle for the defense-minded Monarchs. She made five 3-pointers, hit
7-of-15 shots overall, converted 7-of-9 free throws, plus added two
steals and one block.

Perhaps her biggest shot was one of her last ones, a 3-pointer
that put the Mercury ahead 72-64 with 2:08 left.

"She's a great player, one of the best in our league,"
Monarchs guard Kara Lawson said. "Our job is to make it difficult
for players like that. But we didn't do a good job on her. She had
too many clean looks."

Still, the Monarchs came back to cut the Phoenix lead to 72-70.
Chelsea Newton committed a costly turnover with under a minute to
play and on Sacramento's next possession she missed a shot from
close range in traffic, a shot that would have tied it.

Kelly Miller grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Newton.
Miller made two free throws with 0.8 seconds to secure the victory.

"We got a good look on that shot. We were probably fortunate to
be in that position, I'm not sure we deserved to be that close,"
Lawson said. "We had two chances to tie the game."

Cappie Pondexter scored 16 points and Penny Taylor had 15 and
seven rebounds for Phoenix, which has won two straight and defeated
Sacramento in both meetings this season.

The loss snapped the Monarchs' three-game winning streak. All
three games were at home and followed a one-point loss in Phoenix
on May 29 when the Mercury rallied from a double-digit deficit to
beat first-place Sacramento (5-3).

Replacing injured DeMya Walker in the starting lineup, Rebekkah
Brunson has become Sacramento's best offensive weapon. The
four-year veteran had her third straight solid game, finishing with
17 and a career-high 17 rebounds. Nicole Powell scored 10 points
for Sacramento, which shot 35 percent and committed 24 turnovers.

Sluggish for most of the game against the Mercury's aggressive
zone defense, the Monarchs finally got it going in the fourth
quarter. It was Brunson hustling inside for several putbacks as
Sacramento ran off a 10-2 run, cutting Phoenix's lead to 61-59 with
5:31 remaining.

But Phoenix responded with six straight points, half of them on
Pondexter 3-pointer to take a 67-59 lead with 3:09 left. The
Monarchs cut the margin again to a mere basket, but never had the
lead in the second half.

"Neither of these wins were easy," Phoenix coach Paul Westhead
said. "We probably played a little better tonight. We didn't allow
them to get the ball inside like we did in the first game. Our zone
helped stopped their inside penetration."

The game matched the WNBA's most dangerous offensive team in
Phoenix, against the Monarchs, known as one of the league's top
defensive teams.

Yet the Sacramento defense couldn't stop Taurasi from the start.
She scored 14 points, all in the first quarter, to help Phoenix
take a 40-33 halftime lead. Taurasi got going again in the third
quarter, scoring eight points as the Mercury took a 57-49 lead.