Mercury-Silver Stars Preview - Sept. 1, 2011

Posted Aug 31 2011

When these teams met in June for the first time since the playoffs, the San Antonio Silver Stars remained undefeated while sending the Phoenix Mercury to their worst start in three years.

When the clubs close out their season series Thursday night at San Antonio, the Mercury can clinch a spot in the postseason and hurt the Silver Stars' chances of joining them there.

After losing to the Mercury in the conference semifinals for the second straight year in 2010, the Silver Stars (14-15) recorded their first 4-0 start in the 15-year history of the franchise with a 101-99 victory in Phoenix on June 17.

While that loss dropped the Mercury to 0-3 for the first time since opening 0-4 in 2008, they reeled off 10 wins in their next 11 games, including a 105-98 victory at San Antonio on June 21.

Phoenix (17-12) hasn't won more than two in a row since that stretch, but it can secure a third consecutive postseason berth with a victory Thursday.

The Silver Stars lead Los Angeles by 1 1/2 games for the fourth and final spot, but they have gone 3-10 since a 102-91 victory over Phoenix on July 28.

Led by Becky Hammon, who scored 16 points to become the seventh player in WNBA history with 5,000 in her career, San Antonio snapped a six-game losing streak with a 78-66 win over Connecticut on Tuesday.

"The win is a huge monkey off our back," Hammon said.

Another big effort from Hammon could help give the Silver Stars some momentum heading into a Saturday matchup with Seattle. The All-Star guard has averaged 26.3 points and 8.3 assists as San Antonio and Phoenix have split four games in 2011.

The Mercury will be concluding a four-game trip after beating Tulsa 96-74 on Tuesday, as DeWanna Bonner scored a career high-tying 25 points.

In the starting lineup for the first time this season in place of Penny Taylor (back spasms), Bonner rebounded nicely after going scoreless in a 86-79 win at Washington on Sunday. "I was looking for my shot, being a little more aggressive," she said. "I guess it worked out.''

Bonner scored 13 points with 11 boards in the teams' last meeting Aug. 20, an 87-81 Phoenix home win.

Diana Taurasi missed that game and a 74-70 loss to New York on Aug. 23 with back spasms, but the five-time All-Star is shooting 50.0 percent and averaging 23.3 points - 2.0 more than her league-best average - in three games since returning.

Taylor leads the Mercury with 21.8 points per game in the season series - 5.0 above her average - while forward Candice Dupree has also exceeded her season averages with 18.8 points and 12.3 rebounds versus San Antonio.

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