The Russ Pennell era got off to a solid start with a much-needed win over the Western Conference's worst team.
The Phoenix Mercury would appear to have a good chance to make it two in a row with a second consecutive home matchup against the Tulsa Shock on Sunday.
One day after sixth-year coach Corey Gaines was fired, Phoenix (11-11) held on for a 70-67 win over Tulsa in Pennell's first game as interim coach. The Mercury, allowing a WNBA-worst 83.9 points per game, outscored the Shock 5-2 in the final two minutes Friday and came through with a big defensive stop on the Shock's final possession.
"I thought it was very appropriate we had to win it on the defensive end with a stop," Pennell said. "We made some careless mistakes that we have to correct, but overall I couldn't be more pleased with the effort and the attitude."
Diana Taurasi scored 23 points and Candice Dupree added 20 and nine rebounds for the Mercury, who had dropped seven of their previous nine.
"Everything has been different for the last two days, walking into the locker room not knowing what to expect, not knowing what to do in practice until he (Pennell) obviously put the structure together," said Taurasi, who leads the West with 21.5 points per game.
"Tonight is the same. Every word we're listening. We don't know what he is going to say, or how he is going to react to things. Little by little we are getting used to it."
The Mercury were without star rookie Brittney Griner, who is dealing with a left ankle injury suffered during Tuesday's 80-65 loss to Seattle. If the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft can't go Sunday, expect Phoenix to again look for Taurasi early and often.
"I'm not the smartest coach in the world, but I do know she (Taurasi) can play and we're trying to get her the ball in clutch moments for sure," Pennell said.
Tulsa (7-16), meanwhile, fell to a WNBA-worst 2-10 on the road with its third defeat in four games overall.
"It's a heartbreaking loss for us," coach Gary Kloppenburg. "Because I felt we played well enough to win. We just needed another couple shots for us to go down, a couple more free throws and it is probably a different result."
Elizabeth Cambage had 19 points and a season-high six blocks for the Shock, who were outrebounded 40-25, including 13-8 on the offensive glass.
"We had a few defensive lapses," said Cambage, whose team is allowing 79.6 points per contest to rank 11th in the league. "Defense wins games. A lack of rebounds killed us."
Tulsa, which fell 108-103 in overtime to Phoenix on June 16 in this season's only previous matchup, has dropped 12 of 14 in the series.