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20070824/PHOSEA
Mercury and Storm

It's been more than seven years since the Phoenix Mercury played a postseason game and nearly nine years since they won one.

The top-seeded Mercury, however, take the WNBA's highest-scoring offense and longest active win streak into their best-of-three first-round series against the fourth-seeded Storm, starting with Game 1 in Seattle on Friday.

Phoenix (23-11) hasn't won a playoff game since it beat Houston in Game 1 of the WNBA finals on Aug. 27, 1998. The Mercury were eliminated with losses in the next two games of that series, and have made it back to the playoffs just once since. They were swept out of the first round by Los Angeles in two games in 2000.

The Mercury, though, snapped their postseason appearance drought with a franchise-record 23 wins this year. They closed the regular season with five straight victories, helping them secure the first seed in the West for the first time since the league's inaugural 1997 season.

Phoenix's 87-73 victory over Sacramento on Sunday was its fourth straight win by 10 points or more.

Meanwhile, Seattle (17-17) is making its fourth consecutive postseason appearance - a streak that began with their 2004 championship run. The Storm won their last three games of this regular season, capped by a 97-77 victory over Los Angeles on Friday, but they failed to finish the regular season with a winning record for the first time since 2001.

This series pits the WNBA's two highest-scoring offenses. Phoenix had three players in the top 10 in scoring and established a new league record by averaging 89.0 points per game.

Led by forward Lauren Jackson, Seattle finished second with 80.4 points per game. Jackson averaged 23.8 points and 9.7 rebounds to become the first player to lead the WNBA in both categories since Chamique Holdsclaw accomplished the feat in 2002.

The 6-foot-5 Jackson averaged 29.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in three games against the Mercury this year.

"Once she gets it down low, they really just don't have the size to stop her down there," guard Sue Bird told the Storm's official Web site. "(Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi) does a good job of not letting her touch the ball, but once we do get it to her, Lauren can shoot right over her."

Taurasi, the league's scoring champion in 2006, is far more effective on offense. She was third in the league this year with 19.2 points per game and led the WNBA in 3-pointers for the second consecutive season. She joined Mercury teammates Penny Taylor (17.8, seventh) and Cappie Pondexter (17.2, eighth) in the league's top 10 in scoring.

"They're very tough to slow down," Bird said. "You can only hope to contain them. They're too good for one of them not to score a lot of points. You just don't want all three or all four scoring a lot of points."

Taurasi, Taylor and Pondexter combined to average 60.7 points per game against the Storm this year, but Seattle won two of the teams' three meetings. Each of those three games was decided by at least 10 points, with the home team winning each time.

Seattle has won its last four home games, and has won six of nine postseason contests all-time at Key Arena.

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