Fever peaking for visit against ailing Mercury
By MATT BEARDMORE
The Indiana Fever came up big in the fourth quarter of their last game. That wasn't the case in their most recent visit to Phoenix.
Indiana will try to finish its three-game Western Conference trip with a winning record while the Mercury look to end a team-record nine-game losing streak Saturday night.
Down 13 with 4:03 left, the Fever (13-8) did not give up another point in a 68-66 victory over Seattle on Thursday. Shavonte Zellous' 3-pointer with less than a second remaining helped Indiana rebound from a 79-69 loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday.
"This is a great win for us," forward Tamika Catchings said after recording her fifth double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds. "We go on to Phoenix from here so it's not like we can get too high, but for tonight, for right now, being able to come out with a `W' is just huge for this team."
The Fever, 3-1 since the Olympic break, will play in Phoenix for the first time since a 93-89 overtime loss June 19, 2011. Indiana led by 14 in the second half and seven heading into the fourth, but Diana Taurasi sparked the Mercury's rally with 15 of her 32 points in the final 9:16.
That performance came with Taurasi in the midst of another spectacular season, but the guard hasn't played in a WNBA game since May 26. Taurasi, who played on the U.S. gold-medal winning team in London, was expected to return against New York on Thursday but missed the 89-77 loss after feeling lightheaded following warmups.
The 2009 MVP has struggled with a hip injury and missed Sunday's contest after having a dental procedure.
"Practices are better and hopefully next game she'll play," coach Corey Gaines said.
Phoenix (4-18) has lost a franchise-worst six straight at home and hasn't won since June 29.
With Taurasi sidelined for most of the season and forwards Candice Dupree and Charde Houston also out with injuries, the Mercury have been leaning heavily on DeWanna Bonner. She scored 34 points Thursday to lift her average to 20.2 - third best in the league - and bounced back from a pair of subpar games in which she totaled 17 points.
The Fever routed the visiting Mercury 91-68 in the last matchup June 28, 2011, but lost point guard Briann January for the season to a torn right ACL.
January, a fourth-year pro out of Arizona State, set up Zellous' winning shot Thursday.