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20070830/PHOSAN
Taurasi, Mercury Visit Silver Stars in Game 1

The Phoenix Mercury are a more confident team than when they lost to San Antonio last month.

The Mercury, 11-9 after losing at home to the Silver Stars on July 11, finished the season with 12 wins in their last 14 games.

"I don't know who that team was," Phoenix coach Paul Westhead said Tuesday.

The top-seeded Mercury open the Western Conference finals at San Antonio on Thursday night, and then return home for Game 2 on Saturday and Game 3, if necessary, on Sunday.

Phoenix beat San Antonio three times in the regular season, the last being an 84-79 victory on the Silver Stars' court on Aug. 2.

"We did have a little success," Mercury leading scorer Diana Taurasi said Tuesday. "We beat them there twice, which is something we can look back on and hopefully duplicate a little bit. But this is going to be a different game. They are playing at the top of their game right now, I think we are, too. It's just going to be whoever goes out there and makes the most plays and executes down the stretch."

The Silver Stars provide an interesting matchup for the Mercury, who are coming off a two-game sweep of the Seattle Storm and MVP favorite Lauren Jackson.

No. 2 seed San Antonio, which split its last 16 games before edging Sacramento in the best-of-three first round series, has Sophia Young and Becky Hammon to give the Phoenix defense a new challenge.

The Mercury had trouble with Young, who had 26 points and 12 rebounds in the Silver Stars' win in Phoenix. Hammon, acquired from New York in a draft-day trade, was fifth in the league in scoring (18.8 points per game) and tops in assists (5.0), statistically the best campaign of her nine-year career.

"If you think about her track record ever since she was in New York, her team went deep into the playoffs. She also had fantastic runs," Taurasi said. "They've kind of set it up where the team is built around her and that's what kind of player she is. She is so dominant she makes everyone around her better."

The Mercury, which set a league record by scoring 89 points a game and then had 101 and 95 against Seattle, will have to face a team that scored just 74 points a game but gave up only 73.1.

"They all season have been a very good team," Westhead said. "They had to prove it at home (Monday night) going down the stretch. But it was a terrific game, well-played. A great game for the league. It just means we have a very demanding opponent that we have to be ready for. But I guess when you get to the final group of four teams, everybody is good. No surprise."

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