PHOENIX (AP) The Phoenix Mercury have gotten contributions from all of their All-Stars during their lengthy winning streak.
But on Thursday, it was the 13th-year veteran from Australia who gave them a lift.
Penny Taylor had a season-high 23 points, added four rebounds, four assists and three steals in leading the Mercury to their 12th straight win, 101-85 over the Connecticut Sun.
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The Mercury have an WNBA-best 18-3 record.
”That’s the beauty of it and why I enjoy it so much,” Taylor said. ”Because we are finding ways be effective and it’s not always the easy way. We have so many players on this team with high basketball IQs. For me, that’s so much fun.”
All-Star Brittney Griner added 21 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots, giving her 80 at the break for Phoenix.
Katie Douglas hit a season-high five 3-pointers and had 23 points, five rebounds and six assists for the Sun (10-14), who have lost eight of their past 10.
Phoenix – which hosts the WNBA All-Star game on Saturday – is one win, or a Seattle loss, away from clinching a playoff spot, with a month left in the season.
”Couldn’t have asked for a better first half, in my first year,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. ”I have a great bunch of girls in there. They’re professionals and they want to win, so it makes my job a little easier in that regard.”
Before the streak, no Mercury team had previously been more than 13 games above .500 and Phoenix won 19 games during the regular season a year ago on its way to the Western Conference finals.
”Phoenix is a big team, hard to match up with and they take you out of your offense because of their length,” Connecticut coach Anne Donovan said. ”So tonight it was important to get on the (offensive) boards, we weren’t hitting our first shot, we weren’t getting the shot we wanted.”
Phoenix has won its games by an average of 12.2 points during the win streak.
Alex Bentley added 20 points for Connecticut, which was the most recent team to beat the Mercury, 96-95, on June 12.
”We’re rolling, we wanted to get all these wins and protect home court,” Griner said. ”Connecticut beat us at their place, definitely remembered that in the back of our heads, wanted to get the win so we can enjoy All-Star (game) now.”
All-Star Diana Taurasi had 14 points and six assists for Phoenix, winners of 14 of its past 15.
After trailing by as much as 14 in the first half, Connecticut used some hustle – Chiney Ogwumike’s put-back after being blocked by Griner, Douglas’ steal of an inbounds pass before Phoenix ran off nine straight points and led 76-61 going into the final quarter.
Ogwumike had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Connecticut, her 10th double-double of the season.
Candice Dupree, an All-Star reserve, had 14 points and seven rebounds for Phoenix.
Taylor had 19 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals in the first half as Phoenix opened up a 51-39 lead. Phoenix led by as much as 21 in the fourth quarter.
Taylor scored 12 points during a 3 1/2-minute stretch of the second quarter, then hit a 3-pointer from the baseline in the final minute of the period to put the Mercury up 50-36. Griner added nine points despite picking up her third foul with 1:53 left in the half. She had 17 points in the period.
”When you play on a team like this, the attention is sometime elsewhere,” Taylor said. ”You have to have so much focus on BG (Griner), Diana (Taurasi), Candice (Dupree) and DB (DeWanna Bonner), and I think sometimes I can sneak in there and get a few easy ones. It was a good night for me, I made shots.
”It was just one of those games where it opened up for me.”
The Sun hit 10 of 17 from the field in the second quarter to stay close after trailing 24-14 following the first period.