After a slow start to the season, the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury appear to have hit their stride. Phoenix guards Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi have also managed to put a dry spell behind them.
Hoping to continue their offensive surge following their worst shooting performances of the season, Pondexter and Taurasi look to lead the Mercury to their fifth win in seven games in the opener of a five-game road trip Sunday against the New York Liberty.
Pondexter and Taurasi, the top two scorers in the league with 25.7 and 25.3 points per game, respectively, both struggled with their shots during Phoenix's 89-79 loss to Detroit last Saturday. Pondexter was 5-for-24 from the field and Taurasi made only one of her 13 attempts.
Since that game, however, the Mercury's backcourt duo has been hard to stop. Pondexter is shooting 51.3 percent (20-for-39) in the club's back-to-back victories, while Taurasi has connected on 60.6 percent (20-for-33) of her shots in those contests.
The tandem combined to score 64 points and shoot 22-for-41 as Phoenix (4-6) beat Chicago 112-105 in overtime on Friday night. Taurasi's fifth 3-pointer of the game put Phoenix on top for good with 2:43 left in the extra period.
"We practice fast and we play fast. In that type of game our energy level has to be high and tonight our energy was especially important during overtime," said Mercury coach Corey Gaines, whose club has won four of six after an 0-4 start.
"The running game, that's our game and if you'll notice, in overtime, all we did is run. But that's what we're good at and that's what we're used to."
The Mercury matched a franchise-record point total with the most points scored by any team this season.
"That's cool, but if we would have lost this game it wouldn't have mattered," Taurasi said. "Tonight we really needed every basket that somebody scored, so it means a little bit more when it happens like that."
Taurasi hopes the Mercury can continue their offensive surge on the road, where they play their next five games.
"The last way you want to go - leaving home, on the road for 13 days - is with a loss," she said. "Tonight was important because it gave us confidence and that's definitely a big key."
They'll take that confidence into Madison Square Garden, where New York (5-5) has won four of six.
Overall, the Liberty had won four of five before an 83-69 loss at Indiana on Wednesday night. Janel McCarville scored 23 points and Shameka Christon added 16, but New York was outscored 26-11 in the third quarter in falling to 2-4 on the road.
New York and Phoenix split their season series in 2007, with the Liberty winning 83-82 at home on June 3.