MINNEAPOLIS -- Diana Taurasi scored 31 points and Cappie Pondexter added 23 to help the Phoenix Mercury hold off the Minnesota Lynx for a 96-87 victory on Friday night.
Taurasi scored 23 in the second half as the two lottery-bound teams played without several key players. Le'Coe Willingham added 15 points for Phoenix (16-17), which has won three of four.
"These are tough games to play," Taurasi said. "There was really nothing to play for as far as playoffs or a championship, but you always want to finish off the season right. We have a lot of prideful people on this team, and to finish .500 in this league is difficult and something to be proud of, and it gives you something to work on for next year."
Lindsey Harding led Minnesota (15-18) with a season-high 20 points. Charde Houston had 19 and Anna DeForge scored 15 as the Lynx lost for the fifth time in six games.
The Mercury regained the lead early in the fourth quarter on Kelly Miller's 3-pointer for a 67-64 advantage. Phoenix went ahead by five, but the Lynx cut it to 83-82.
From there, Taurasi scored five straight points to help Phoenix pull away.
"I think in the second half, we came out aggressive, played a little smarter and we had our shots fall," Pondexter said. "We really wanted it and wanted to finish off our season strong, and it was a good win for us tonight."
Playing without its two leading scorers, Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins, Minnesota missed its first 12 shots. Vanessa Hayden-Johnson broke the drought at 4:56 in the first quarter.
However, the Mercury weren't able to take advantage, shooting just 3-of-12 for a 9-2 lead. The two teams combined to go 1-for-15 to open the game.
Phoenix won its first WNBA title last season, but has played without last year's second-leading scorer, Penny Taylor. Taylor missed the first half of the season preparing for the Olympics with her Australian national team, and then made the decision to sit out the remainder of the WNBA season to spend time with her family. Tangela Smith, the team's third-leading scorer this season, had knee surgery on Aug. 12.
"It would be easy to fold and say, 'What is there really to play for?'," Taurasi said. "But every time you step on the court you have something to prove as an individual, as a teammate, and just respect for the game of basketball."
Meanwhile, the Lynx started a franchise-best 5-0 this season because of Augustus and several key rookies, including Wiggins. Minnesota lost Augustus and Wiggins to injuries on Tuesday in a victory against Indiana.
"When you've got the youngest team in the league anything can happen," Lynx coach Don Zierden said. "You know, 5-0 doesn't mean anything when you have a bunch of young kids because the second time you go through people, they're going to be ready on the scouting report. We were getting a lot of things off our press earlier in the year. You don't sustain that at the pro level over a 34-game season. We knew it was going to be a much harder road."