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Taurasi finishes fourth in league scoring

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Mercury's finale Sunday night had no effect
on the playoff picture. Still, Phoenix's 17th win was hardly
insignificant.

The Mercury beat the Houston Comets 78-64 to finish 17-17 -- nine
games better than their 8-26 record a year ago and their first
non-losing season since 2000.

"I would have liked it to have been a game to get into the
playoffs but it was a great night for me and for everybody," said
Plenette Pierson, who scored a season-high 24 points. "Everything
was rolling for us and we just wanted to end the season with a
win."

Anna DeForge also scored 24, and Diana Taurasi added 14 points
to finish fourth in the WNBA in scoring at 17.0 per game. She also
had seven rebounds and six assists.

"When our team has fun out there offensively, it makes a
difference and perhaps it was a lesson for our youth," said
Phoenix coach Carrie Graf. "There was no pressure tonight and they
just went out there and played."

Tina Thompson had 17 and Octavia Blue scored 13 to lead the
Comets (13-21), who wrapped up their worst season ever and missed
the playoffs for the first time in league history. The four-time
WNBA champions were the only team to make the postseason in each of
the league's first seven seasons.

The Mercury were in fourth place on Sept. 9 with a 16-13 record,
and looked primed for a playoff berth. Then came a four-game losing
streak that allowed Sacramento to pass them for the final
postseason spot.

"I think it was good for us to end with a victory at home,"
said DeForge. "We lost a few tough ones which put us out of the
playoffs. But definitely finishing .500, 17-17, is an improvement
from last year. We just look to build on that in the future."

Phoenix closed the half on a 17-2 run to take a 50-27 lead at
the break. The Mercury's 50-point outburst was their best half of
the season and the most points allowed by Houston in a half all
year.

"We played the game to its fullest," said Houston coach Van
Chancellor. "At halftime we could have folded our tent and gotten
beaten by 40. I'm proud of our team for not doing that."

Houston ran off eight straight points to get within 68-59 with
3:38 left, but would get no closer.

Houston committed 16 turnovers, leading to 21 Mercury points.

The Comets played their last two games without second-leading
scorer Sheryl Swoopes, who sprained her left ankle on Thursday
against Sacramento.

Houston finished the season on a three-game losing streak. They
lost seven of their last eight and their last 10 on the road.

Penny Taylor added 10 points and six rebounds for Phoenix, which
swept the Comets for the first time in league history.