Storm-Mercury Preview

The Phoenix Mercury are one victory away from winning their first playoff series in nine years.

The top-seeded Mercury look to finish off the No. 4 seed Seattle Storm when the teams meet in Phoenix on Sunday in Game 2 of their best-of-three, first-round Western Conference playoff series.

Phoenix beat the host Storm 101-84 in Friday's series opener for its first postseason victory since a 54-51 win over Houston in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Aug. 27, 1998 - the same season the franchise won its only playoff series.

That could change Sunday, however, if the West's top team that finished 23-11 during the regular season matches Friday's performance.

Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor each scored 22 points and Cappie Pondexter added 21 for Phoenix, which shot 45.8 percent from the field - including 41.2 percent (14-for-34) from 3-point range - and stymied Seattle star Lauren Jackson.

"That's what we've been talking about - little steps," Taurasi said. "Everything this year has been a little step - from being first in the West during the regular season, finally making the playoffs."

While Seattle will try to avoid a third straight first-round exit Saturday, the Mercury look to return to the conference finals for the first time since losing two of three to the Comets in 1998. Phoenix is making its first playoff appearance since 2000, when it was swept in two games by Los Angeles.

"We're a pretty focused team. I think we'll go back and be prepared for Seattle's best on Sunday," said Mercury coach Paul Westhead, whose team finished the regular season with five straight wins. "We know they can beat us. We need one more win and we know that, especially with Lauren Jackson, they're a very dangerous team."

With Phoenix's talented trio of Taurasi, Taylor and Pondexter - who averaged 60.7 points in three regular-season games against the Storm in 2007 - handling things on the offensive end, Taurasi's own physical defensive play on Jackson frustrated the league's leading scorer and rebounder.

Jackson, who averaged 23.8 points and 9.7 rebounds per game and was named the league's defensive player of the year, was held to 16 points and took just 10 shots. The 6-foot-5 Jackson, a front-runner for the league's MVP award, averaged 29.0 points against Phoenix this season.

"We are not going to make it to the second round with Lauren Jackson taking 10 shots," Storm coach Anne Donovan said.

Betty Lennox scored 23 points on just 7-for-20 shooting for the Storm, who committed 18 turnovers and now must travel to Phoenix, where the Mercury went 12-5 this season.

Seattle's 5-12 road record was the worst of the eight teams to qualify for the playoffs.

Game 3, if necessary, will be Tuesday at Phoenix.

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