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By JEFF MEZYDLO, STATS Senior Writer

When the Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury met in the semifinals of the 2007 Western Conference playoffs, there was no doubt as to which was the better team.

Nine months and a new season later, much has changed as the unbeaten Storm visit the winless defending WNBA champions on Thursday night.

Phoenix had little trouble disposing of Seattle in two games during last year's playoffs on its way to winning the franchise's first league title. That series loss played a part in the Storm's decision to sign WNBA legends Sheryl Swoopes and Yolanda Griffith, plus trade for former Detroit All-Star Swin Cash in the offseason.

Those moves have already paid off for Seattle (2-0), which will hit the road for the first time after winning 74-62 over Sacramento on Tuesday.

The Mercury (0-2), meanwhile, head home after falling 81-76 at San Antonio on Tuesday night. Phoenix lost 99-94 to preseason title favorite Los Angeles at home on Saturday to open the season.

"(The rest of the league has) adjusted and they've stacked themselves," first-year coach Corey Gaines told the Mercury's official Web site. "We've got a bulls-eye on our backs."

Seattle and its star-studded lineup hopes to be the next opponent to beat Phoenix. Cash, Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird each scored 17 points while Swoopes added 10 and seven rebounds and sparked a 30-11 second-half run Tuesday for the Storm.

"You always want things to happen right away," said first-year Seattle coach Brian Alger, whose team trailed 34-24 at halftime. "We have to get our energy level up earlier, get that alarm bell to go off earlier."

Seattle won two of three against the Mercury in the 2007 regular season and has taken six of the last eight meetings. Jackson, the reigning league MVP who averaged a career-high 23.8 points last year, averaged 29.0 against the Mercury last season.

Phoenix hasn't lacked for production from stars Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi, but hasn't had much support otherwise.

Pondexter had 23 points and Taurasi added 20 in Tuesday's loss. Pondexter, last season's finals MVP, scored 32 points as she and Taurasi combined for 56 versus Los Angeles.

Pondexter averaged 21.3 points and Taurasi 20.0 against Seattle in 2007.

Veteran center Tangela Smith (12.0 points per game) is the only other player averaging more than 7.5 for the Mercury, who are without forward Penny Taylor (17.8 ppg in 2007), who is expected to skip this season to play for Australia at the Beijing Olympics.

Though Seattle leads 16-11 in the all-time series, Phoenix is 8-6 at home versus the Storm.

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