Storm-Mercury preview

The Phoenix Mercury can clinch the WNBA's final playoff spot with a win over the Seattle Storm on Thursday at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.

Seattle (15-17) has already secured its place in the postseason. The Storm is third in the Western Conference, 11 games behind the first-place Minnesota Lynx and 9 1/2 games behind the second-place Los Angeles Sparks.

Phoenix (14-18) is fourth in the Western Conference, one game behind Seattle in the West and, more importantly, one game ahead of the Washington Mystics for the final playoff berth. One win by Phoenix or one loss by Washington would give the Mercury the No. 8 seed and eliminate the Mystics from playoff contention.

Phoenix swept the season series against Washington and will hold the tiebreaker advantage should they finish with identical records. The Mystics will play the Atlanta Dream earlier Thursday night and conclude the regular season Sunday against the Connecticut Sun. The Mercury will end the regular season against the San Antonio Stars on Sunday.

Phoenix has lost four of its last five games to put its playoff hopes in jeopardy. The Mercury is coming off a 90-85 loss to Los Angeles. DeWanna Bonner came off the bench to score 20 points in the loss. Brittney Griner had 19 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots.

The Mercury shot 44.9 percent and led by as many as 14 midway through the third quarter, but the Sparks rallied to win behind Nneka Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray.

Seattle is surging as it prepares for the playoffs. The Storm have won four in a row by an average of 14 points per game, including a 102-78 rout of the Eastern Conference-leading New York Liberty and a 78-60 victory over Los Angeles.

All five starters scored in double figures in the win over Los Angeles. Breanna Stewart had 20 points and eight rebounds while Crystal Langhorne added 15 points and 10 rebounds.