20080912/PHOMIN
Taurasi Scores 31 to Lead Mercury Past Lynx

Phoenix 96, Minnesota 87

MINNEAPOLIS, Sept. 12 (AP) -- Diana Taurasi scored 31 points and Cappie Pondexter added 23 to help the Phoenix Mercury hold off the Minnesota Lynx for a 96-87 victory on Friday night.

Taurasi scored 23 in the second half as the two lottery-bound teams played without several key players. Le'Coe Willingham added 15 off the bench for Phoenix (16-17), which has won three of four.

Lindsey Harding led Minnesota (15-18) with a season-high 20 points. Charde Houston had 19 and Anna DeForge scored 15 as the Lynx lost for the fifth time in six games.

The Mercury regained the lead early in the fourth quarter on Kelly Miller's 3-pointer for a 67-64 advantage. Phoenix went ahead by five, but the Lynx cut it to 83-82.

From there, Taurasi scored five straight points to help Phoenix pull away.

Playing without its two leading scorers, Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins, Minnesota missed its first 12 shots. Vanessa Hayden-Johnson broke the drought at 4:56 in the first quarter.

However, the Mercury weren't able to take advantage, shooting just 3-of-12 for a 9-2 lead. The two teams combined to go 1-for-15 to open the game.

Phoenix won its first WNBA title last season, but has played without last year's second-leading scorer, Penny Taylor. Taylor missed the first half of the season preparing for the Olympics with her Australian national team, and then made the decision to sit out the remainder of the WNBA season to spend time with her family. Tangela Smith, the team's third-leading scorer this season, had knee surgery on Aug. 12.

Meanwhile, the Lynx started a franchise-best 5-0 this season because of Augustus and several key rookies, including Wiggins. Minnesota lost Augustus and Wiggins to injuries on Tuesday in a victory against Indiana.

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