WNBA

Liberty 89, Mercury 77

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PHOENIX (AP)

Cappie Pondexter scored 31 points to lead the New York Liberty to an 89-77 victory over Phoenix on Thursday night, handing the Mercury their ninth straight loss.

Nicole Powell and Leilani Mitchell scored 13 points each, Plenette Pierson had 12 points and Kara Braxton added 12 points and nine rebounds to help the Liberty (9-13) win for the third time in four games since the league's month-long Olympic break.

''We've had injuries like Phoenix ... so we've been out of synch,'' Liberty coach John Whisenant said. ''Since the break we've been playing better because we got everyone healthy and we've been able to practice with healthy people... And we've been making shots. Coaching is a lot easier when we make shots.''

Pondexter shot 9 for 15 from the field - 5 for 9 on 3pointers - and was 8 for 8 from the free-throw line. New York shot 47 percent (30 for 64), including 13 for 27 on 3s, and moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Eastern Conference, one-half game ahead of Chicago and two games behind third-place Atlanta.

''We have to stay afloat,'' Pondexter said. ''Our goal is to win eight more games to be in a safe position.''

DeWanna Bonner scored 34 points for Phoenix (4-18), which continued to play without several of its injured regulars. Bonner shot 11 for 26 from the field, tying her career high for baskets made.

The Liberty led by 18 in the first half before Phoenix rallied to pull to 56-53 midway through the third period on Bonner's layup. However, Pondexter scored nine points over the next 6 minutes and New York took a 70-61 lead into the final period.

''I don't know if we just came out a little too passive,'' Bonner said. ''We're trying to figure things out and we end up digging ourselves a hole. With this team you can't do that. We have to come out aggressive and its hard to do that when you're down 15, 16 points.''

Sammy Prahalis added 12 points, four rebounds and four assists, and Krystal Thomas added a career-high 14 rebounds for the Mercury, who played only eight players.

Phoenix was without Olympic gold medalist Diana Taurasi, who was in warmups but said she felt lightheaded and did not play. She underwent a dental procedure last Friday. Before the Olympic break, Taurasi had missed 18 of Phoenix's 20 games with a hip flexor but then led the Americans in scoring during the Olympic tournament, averaging 12.4 points a game.

''Practices are better and hopefully next game she'll play,'' Mercury coach Corey Gaines said.

Phoenix regulars Candice Dupree (knee), Alexis Gray-Lawson (knee) and Charde Houston (ankle) all sat out with injuries.

New York made 4 of 5 from beyond the arc in the first 4 minutes and then scored eight straight points to take a 30-16 lead after the first quarter.

Pondexter hit three 3s in the second to help the Liberty take a 45-27 lead with 4:36 left in the half. But Bonner scored nine points down the stretch as the Mercury closed to 50-40 at the break.

''We lost that first quarter and we couldn't dig ourselves out of that hole,'' Gaines said. ''You know we cut it down to three but they hit some shots.''

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