Mercury getting healthy in time for playoff push
NEW YORK (AP) — The Phoenix Mercury are finally getting healthy and that could be trouble for the rest of the league during the playoffs.
The Mercury welcomed back Diana Taurasi on Sunday after she sat out the last month recovering from a hamstring injury.
“The other night was a test and I feel good,” Taurasi said at shootaround Tuesday before the Mercury faced New York. “I will keep working and trying to get back to where I was a couple of months ago.”
She missed the first part of the season rehabbing after a back injury. Sancho Lyttle (knee) also has returned to the Phoenix lineup. Essence Carson has been sidelined with a calf injury, but could return Tuesday night in New York.
Few teams have more playoff experience than the Mercury. Phoenix has reached the semifinals every year since the playoff format changed in 2016 with the top eight overall teams qualifying for the postseason as opposed to the top teams in each conference. The Mercury were seeded fifth the past two years and eighth in 2016, but each time they pulled off upsets to advance.
“The last couple years we’ve been in situation where seeding hasn’t mattered for us,” Taurasi said. “We embrace it a little bit. Being the oldest team in the league maybe we’ve gone into some midseason funks of being bored. That’s something you have to be careful of. We know these next two weeks are crucial for us to get that rhythm back. It’s going to be a work in progress. Do we have enough time? I don’t know.”
They are currently in eighth place right now, 1½ games out of sixth and 3½ in front of ninth-place Indiana. The Mercury aren’t the only team trying to clinch a postseason berth. The Lynx just need one more win or an Indiana loss to reach the playoffs.
A look at this week’s WNBA poll:
1. Washington (21-8): Kristi Toliver is still sidelined with a bone bruise in her knee. With the Mystics poised to earn one of the top two seeds in the postseason, Toliver could have more time to heal if Washington gets a bye to the semifinals.
2. Connecticut (20-9): A win over Las Vegas gave the Sun the tiebreaker over both Washington and the Aces. Now the Sun will try to hold on to second place and secure the double-bye.
3. Los Angeles (18-10): The Sparks also are finally healthy, having their entire roster available for the first time this season. Huge game looming against Washington on Tuesday.
4. Chicago (18-11): Three straight wins have put the Sky in the postseason for the first time since 2016 and in the mix for a bye in the opening round.
5. Las Vegas (19-11): So far the Aces have had a disappointing road trip with a loss at Connecticut and getting blown out by Minnesota. Las Vegas has only one home game in its final four contests.
6. Seattle (15-14): The Storm had a week to prepare for their game against Indiana and fizzled out with an 11-point home loss. The defending champions will try and hold on to host an opening round game in the playoffs.
7. Minnesota (15-15): After a four-game skid, the Lynx have turned it around with two consecutive wins behind the strong play of Sylvia Fowles and Napheesa Collier.
8. Phoenix (13-15): It may take Taurasi a few games to find her shooting touch, but having her in the lineup for one game allowed Brittney Griner to have more room in the post as she went for a season-best 34 against the Sky.
9. Indiana (10-19): It’s a long shot, but the Fever are still in the hunt for a playoff spot in the final few weeks of the season.
10. Dallas (9-20): Arike Ogunbowale has been a bright spot this season, tying the WNBA rookie record with her sixth consecutive 20-point performance.
11. New York (9-20): Good news for the Liberty is they ended their losing streak.
12. Atlanta (7-22): The streak is over for the Dream, who ended their 12-game losing streak by beating New York. Atlanta has already been eliminated from the playoff contention, so is just playing out the string.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Napheesa Collier earned player of the week honors after helping Minnesota go 2-1 this week. She averaged 18.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.3 steals for the Lynx. Other players receiving votes included Diamond DeShields of Chicago, Nneka Ogwumike of Los Angeles and Courtney Williams of Connecticut.
Dallas rookie Arike Ogunbowale has scored 20 or more points in six consecutive games, tying the WNBA rookie record held by Alana Beard, Cappie Pondexter and Odyssey Sims. Ogunbowale had 29 points in the loss to Atlanta on Sunday to equal that mark. She’s had 13 games this season where she’s reached 20 or more points.
The Phoenix Mercury raised nearly $54,000 for the American Cancer Society on Sunday in their Stewart Health Care Rock the Pink Day. Griner and Taurasi participated in a live auction after the game with both players auctioning off their pink shoes .
GAME OF THE WEEK
Las Vegas at Los Angeles, Saturday. The Aces so far have faltered on their road trip, dropping games in Connecticut and Indiana to fall into fourth place in the standings. A win over the Sparks would help them stay in hunt for third.
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