WASHINGTON (AP) — Meeting for the second time in a week, Phoenix and Washington played a fast paced, offensive-heavy game in the rematch. Even though they trailed for much of the game, Diana Taurasi and the Mercury couldn’t have been happier.
Taurasi scored 26 points and DeWanna Bonner had 22 as the Mercury beat the Mystics 101-97 on Thursday night for their third straight win. Candice Dupree added 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Brittney Griner scored 11 for the Mercury, who have won six of their last seven.
Phoenix led midway in the first quarter, but then not again until the same portion of the fourth. The Mercury (6-4) then went ahead for good when Taurasi’s turnaround jumper tied the score at 91 and she sank two free throws with 48 seconds to go.
“At one point in the third, I said, `if this is how it’s going to be, we’ll take it,'” Taurasi said. “We excel when it’s up and down. At one point, you think you can get any shot. Then we turn the pressure up a little bit and then it gets a little bit harder.”
Washington (4-5) committed five of its nine turnovers in the final tense period of the helter-skelter game.
Phoenix opened the season 0-3 because of a change of offensive philosophy.
“The dumb GM was thinking we shouldn’t run anymore, slow down and throw the ball into Brittney for kick outs,” said Mercury coach Corey Gaines, who is also the team’s general manager. “That didn’t work out too well”
“So we went back to our regular game, up-tempo and let (Griner) play with us,” Gaines said.
The Mystics played with Phoenix at its desired pace throughout, but came up short late, losing their fourth straight. Crystal Langhorne scored 27 points on 12-of-13 shooting and Matee Ajavon had 17. Washington was outrebounded 36-31 and Phoenix grabbed six of its nine offensive boards in the second half
“We missed some block outs down the stretch,” Langhorne said. “Fourth quarter, Diana hit some tough shots and we didn’t execute.”
Bonner made eight straight free throws inside the final 23.6 seconds and Phoenix knocked down 21 of 26.
“Those are things that set you apart, making free throws, executing a play,” said Taurasi, who was 4 for 7 on 3-pointers. “We did a pretty good job of that over the last 3 minutes.”
The frenetic pace led to a wild finish. Trailing 99-96 with 4.5 seconds left, Ajavon was fouled as she made a 3. Without the aid of replay, the officials ruled the foul came before the shot.
“Everyone was saying the referee messed the call up, but I think they called the initial foul before the grab, before she shot the ball,” Gaines said.
After making the first attempt, Ajavon missed the second on purpose, but Bonner grabbed the rebound, leading to her final free throws.
“I don’t know what to say,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. “I haven’t watched that play yet, so I don’t know. I know that the official put their hand up for a shot attempt and I didn’t hear a whistle until then.”
The teams combined for 53 points in the first quarter and 57 in the third. The Mercury shot 53.7 percent from the field overall while Washington made 7 of 13 3s.
After combining for 47 points in her two previous games, Griner went 4 of 6 from the field in 26 minutes. Last Friday, she scored 21 points in a 90-82 home win over Washington.
Monique Currie scored 17 points and Ivory Latta had 12 for the Mystics.
Trailing 15-11 midway through the first quarter, Washington scored the next 11 points and led 31-19 after consecutive 3s by Latta. Currie scored 10 in the first quarter and Langhorne had nine of her 17 first-half points in the second as the Mystics led 50-43 at halftime.