The Phoenix Mercury are hoping they can finally get back to the kind of high-octane basketball they were known for last season when they won their first WNBA championship.
After getting their offense back on track to end a losing streak, the Mercury look to win consecutive games for the first time this month when they host the Atlanta Dream on Saturday.
Phoenix (10-12) has had a difficult time playing without star forward Penny Taylor, who's preparing for the Beijing Olympics with the Australian national team. The defending league champion is tied with Houston for last place in the tightly bunched Western Conference.
The Mercury have five games left before the Olympic break, and are hoping to use this stretch to regain their championship form.
"A good week's stretch in which we've shown we can play at that level and we're back in the race," Mercury star Diana Taurasi said.
The Mercury averaged 87.3 points during a three-game losing streak, but the league's highest-scoring team needed an even bigger output to snap the skid with a 99-92 win over Los Angeles on Thursday. Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter combined for 50 points despite making only 12 of 39 shots (30.8 percent).
"If we play similar to that, we'll be just fine," Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said. "We didn't shoot well, we didn't play great. We just played hard."
Pondexter did make all four of her 3-point attempts, and has made at least three in four straight games. She is averaging 27.7 points over her last three contests.
The Mercury have lost five of seven overall since capping a season-high four-game winning streak with a 97-79 victory at Atlanta on July 1. Taurasi scored 28 points in that game as Phoenix cruised despite playing without Pondexter, who missed the contest due to fatigue.
Even without their second-leading scorer, the Mercury looked impressive to Dream coach Marynell Meadors.
"They have all the pieces of the puzzle," she said after the loss. "They capitalize on all your mistakes."
Atlanta (3-20) will try to earn a split of its six-game road trip after falling 77-73 at Sacramento on Friday. The Dream trimmed a 16-point deficit entering the fourth quarter to one with 1:32 remaining before falling for the third time in four games.
Leading scorer Betty Lennox, who averages 18.5 points, missed her first nine shots Friday and scored all 11 of her points in the final 6:51.