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Mercury-Silver Stars Preview
By LAURA MEDINA, STATS Writer

Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi might not be familiar with all of the faces on the roster yet, but the Phoenix Mercury stars wasted little time impressing their new teammates.

Pondexter and Taurasi look to build on strong season-opening performances while helping the new-look Mercury to their first win of 2008 on Tuesday when they visit the San Antonio Silver Stars in the teams' first meeting since last summer's Western Conference finals.

Pondexter played a key role for Phoenix (0-1) last season, averaging 17.2 points during the regular season and 23.9 in the playoffs en route to being named finals MVP. Teamed with Taurasi, who boasted a team-high 19.2 points, Pondexter helped lead the Mercury to their first WNBA championship.

The former first-round picks, though, are among only five members from that title-winning team on this year's club.

The revamped squad was unable to win the season opener, falling 99-94 at home to Los Angeles on Saturday after receiving its championship rings.

Pondexter finished with 32 points despite arriving to Phoenix late Friday after a flight from Turkey, where she played during the offseason. Taurasi added 24 points while battling a stomach virus she contracted after returning from Russia this week.

Those efforts weren't lost on first-year coach Corey Gaines.

"They played hard. I can't ask for more," said Gaines, who replaced Paul Westhead. "Cappie just flew in and Dee just flew in; we haven't practiced together yet."

Both Pondexter and Taurasi will be counted on to overcome the loss of forward Penny Taylor, who is skipping the season to play for her native Australia at the Beijing Olympics.

While they continue to make adjustments, the Mercury also aim to avoid losing their first two games for the first time since starting 0-4 in 2006.

That opportunity will come Tuesday, when they play the Silver Stars (0-1) for the first time since sweeping them in the West finals last season.

San Antonio, which went 20-14 last year and made its first trip to the playoffs since 2002, lost its season opener on Saturday, 73-64 at Sacramento.

Sophia Young scored 22 points while Becky Hammon and Erin Buescher each added 11 for the Silver Stars, who shot just 32.4 percent (24-for-74) and missed 15 of 19 3-point attempts.

"We know (the Monarchs) are a good defensive team that is scrappy, but I thought we had a lot of good looks, open shots that we just didn't make," said Hammon, in her second season with San Antonio. "We made a lot of mistakes, things that really hurt us."

The Silver Stars have dropped four straight regular-season games dating to last year - their longest skid since a six-game slide from July 30-Aug. 8, 2006.

San Antonio hasn't started 0-2 since losing the first five games of 2005.

The team looks to have center Ann Wauters in the lineup after passport problems kept her out of the opener. She was acquired in the offseason from expansion Atlanta.

Last season, Hammon averaged 16.2 points in six games - including playoffs - versus Phoenix. Taurasi and Pondexter, meanwhile, averaged 21.7 and 18.5 points, respectively, against the Silver Stars.

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