Phoenix opens playoffs Friday vs. fourth-seed Seattle

Mercury Finishes on Top in West

Posted: Aug. 18, 2007

SACRAMENTO (AP) -- Diana Taurasi scored 32 points and the Phoenix Mercury clinched the top seed in the WNBA Western Conference playoffs with a 101-91 victory over the Sacramento Monarchs on Friday night.

Cappie Pondexter had 23 points for the Mercury (22-11), who made a season-high 15 3-pointers. They blew past the Monarchs in an outstanding second half for their 10th victory in 11 games at the close of the winningest regular season in franchise history.

Phoenix’s win also set the playoff picture in the West.

Mercury, are in playoffs for the first time since 2000, will face fourth-place Seattle in the best-of-three first round starting Friday at Seattle and the slumping Monarchs (19-14) will meet secondplace San Antonio starting Thursday at Arco Arena.

Sacramento and Phoenix wrap up their regular seasons with another meeting in Phoenix on Sunday. The Mercury have won five straight in the rivalry.

Tangela Smith had 14 points and seven rebounds as Phoenix finished first overall in the conference standings for the first time since the WNBA’s inaugural season in 1997. The Mercury actually clinched the top spot right around the time they tipped off at Arco Arena, when San Antonio finished up its 59-55 loss to Indiana.

Rebekkah Brunson scored 17 points for the Monarchs, whose .500 play in August will keep them on the road when they begin defense of their consecutive conference titles.

Sacramento couldn’t keep up with the Mercury’s fevered pace despite using all 11 players in uniform, giving up a season-high in points.

Nicole Powell, Yolanda Griffith and Kara Lawson all scored 12 points.

Coach Paul Westhead’s quick-strike offense sent the Mercury on a 20-6 run in the second quarter, turning a small deficit into a 10-point lead.

Phoenix scored 22 points in the opening 5:40 of the third quarter, opening up a 19-point advantage moments later.

Taurasi scored 16 points in the second half, setting a season high with 12 field goals. She also drew boos from the crowd with a hard foul on Griffith in the final minutes.

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