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Dream beat Taurasi-less Mercury for third straight win

ATLANTA -- Even if Diana Taurasi had been healthy, Atlanta Dream coach Marynell Meadors thought her team had enough resources to beat the Phoenix Mercury.

Angel McCoughtry scored 18 points, Yelena Leuchanka hit two late free throws and the Dream beat the Mercury 94-88 on Tuesday night for their third straight victory.

"It's the balance and depth," Meadors said. "I keep saying that game after game. If someone is not playing well or not producing, we have people waiting to have their chance."

Phoenix, which has lost five straight, played its first game this season without Taurasi, the WNBA's leading scorer. The 2009 league MVP watched the game from the bench after bruising her lower back Sunday at Washington.

"It was a pregame decision," Mercury forward Penny Taylor said of Taurasi's status. "We weren't sure, but the plan was to get a win because we haven't had one. Regardless of who's out there, we needed to fight harder and we did. We played well and lost to a good team."

In a matchup of the WNBA's two top scoring teams, Taurasi drew a technical foul from game official Michael Price with 47.2 seconds left in the third and Phoenix (5-10) leading 74-69.

Alison Bales' 18-foot jumper with 8:08 remaining gave the Dream (12-4) an 80-78 lead, their first advantage since midway through the first quarter.

Leuchanka's free throws at the 1:44 mark put the Dream ahead 90-86. She combined with Bales and Armintie Price for 38 points and 22 rebounds from Atlanta's three-player bench trio.

"Coach has been saying for several games that our defense is going to win the game, not the offense," Price said after scoring 13 points with six assists and five rebounds. "We knew we had to pick it up another level if we wanted to win the game."

DeWanna Bonner started at guard for Taurasi and finished with 17 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Playing with a bruised big toe, Bonner limped off the floor in the fourth before returning for the final 4:38.

Taylor led the Mercury with season-high 31 points. Temeka Johnson had a career-high 12 assists.

"I didn't think [Atlanta] kept pace very well in the first half," Taylor said. "We were able to push it and get open layups, and we didn't do that as well in the second half. They started to go inside with their advantage inside the paint and dominated in back-to-the-basket moves."

The Dream outscored Phoenix 27-2 in second-chance points.

"We had to find a way out of it and get back to running, which we did in phases," Taylor said, "but not enough to get us back in the game."

Atlanta has won five of six to stay atop the Eastern Conference. The Dream, who improved to 6-1 at Philips Arena, remained 1½ games up on Washington and Connecticut.

"I think it's all about team effort, and that's what makes us such a good team," Bales said. "We all work together very well."