Mercury seek fourth straight win against Sun

The Phoenix Mercury return home on Thursday to play the Connecticut Sun after a successful four-game trip that finished with three straight victories.

The Mercury (13-5) appear to be back to the way they were playing when they first hosted the Sun last month while they were in the midst of an eight-game winning streak.

That streak ended with two straight losses, but the Mercury now share the best record in the WNBA with the Seattle Storm.

The Sun (10-7) are trying to make a more significant rebound to their recent struggles.

They have lost six of their last nine games, a tough stretch that includes an 89-72 loss at Phoenix on June 16. Connecticut started the season as the WNBA’s hottest team at 7-1.

The Sun are coming off their biggest win of the season, a 73-72 victory on the road over the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday.

Chiney Ogwumike’s layup with 18.5 seconds left gave the Sun the win in front of 6,280 at the Staples Center.

“It was gutty,” said Connecticut coach Curt Miller, whose team held on after blowing a 20-point lead. “We took a big punch from them with their pressure (in the second half). They really extended their defense like they’re capable of doing. They’re one of the more premier defensive teams in the league.

“We just stayed poised at the end, made some big plays, (and) got back to our basics of what we wanted to do against them.”

Ogwumike had 21 points, seven rebounds and two steals for the Sun, who clinched the season series against the Sparks.

Sun starter Alyssa Thomas missed her eighth straight game because of a shoulder injury. Fellow starter Courtney Williams missed her second straight game for personal reasons.

“We’ve (had) a lot of adversity,” Miller said. “We have not played great basketball without Alyssa since her injury. … (We’ve) just got to gut through this and survive.”

The Mercury have not played since Saturday, when they snapped the Washington Mystics’ four-game winning streak with an 84-74 win.

Phoenix center Brittney Griner finished with 24 points and seven rebounds and tied her season high with four assists. DeWanna Bonner scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Mercury. Diana Taurasi collected a season-high nine assists, six rebounds and seven points.

“We seem to be playing well on the road,” Taurasi said. “The road, I always say if you are a bad team, it lets you know you are a really bad team, and if you are a good team, it lets you know you are a good team.

“The road has been good to us. We really lock in, we focus on what we want to do and today was a good example of that.”

Phoenix is 9-2 on the road and 4-3 at home.