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Taurasi's ninth 30-point game of year powers Mercury by Comets

PHOENIX -- Diana Taurasi scored 33 points, her ninth 30-plus performance of the season, to lead the Phoenix Mercury past the Houston Comets 99-74 Sunday night.

The defending WNBA champions avoided elimination and are still in the hunt for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Coupled with the Sacramento Monarchs' 78-71 win over Minnesota on Sunday night, the Mercury moved into sole possession of fifth place, two games behind fourth-place Sacramento. Houston and Minnesota are three games back with three to play.

Mistie Williams scored a career-high 17 points to lead the Comets, who have lost five in a row and are just 3-13 on the road.

LeCoe Willingham added 16 points and seven rebounds for Phoenix, which has won three straight.

Taurasi scored 22 points, making 15-of-15 from the free-throw line, in the first half. The 15 free throws set a WNBA record for most in a half, topping Houston's Tina Thompson, who made 14 on June 11, 2007.

Taurasi tied Lauren Jackson's WNBA mark for 30-point games in a career with 20. Jackson is sitting out the end of this WNBA season.

Michelle Snow and Shannon Johnson added 14 points for Houston while Thompson was held to 3-of-14 shooting and 13 points overall.

Kelly Miller and Cappie Pondexter each added 11 points for Phoenix. Miller added nine rebounds.

The Mercury went on a 18-6 run midway through the third quarter to open up a close game, capped by Pondexter's three-point play with 1:45 left in the period that gave Phoenix a 72-61 lead. The Mercury led by at least 12 throughout the final quarter.