for this game

Phoenix beats San Antonio 106-78, evens series

Sep 20, 2009 - 5:39 AM PHOENIX(AP)Back to their high-scoring, fast-breaking ways, the Phoenix Mercury evened their Western Conference semifinal series against the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Diana Taurasi had 24 points, six rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots Saturday to lead the Mercury past the Silver Stars 106-78.

The deciding game of the best-of-three is Monday at U.S. Airways Center.

"When you make shots, things seem easier," said Phoenix coach Corey Gaines after his team shot 64 percent from the field and hit 9-of-16 from beyond the arc. "It's amazing how it gets easier - defense gets better, everything gets easier."

Taurasi, the league's leading scorer at 20.4 a game, scored 20 in the first half as the Mercury (24-12) took control early, leading 64-42 at the break. San Antonio (16-20) never got closer than 17 in the second half.

Sophia Young had 19 points to lead San Antonio, which lost in the WNBA finals a year ago.

"Tonight we did a better job of making it difficult," said Taurasi, who made 10-of-15 from the field and 4-of-7 from beyond the 3-point line. "We made it difficult for Sophia. You look at the stat sheet and she has 19, but we made her work a little bit more. That's what it's about - making adjustments and trying to execute them on the court."

Cappie Pondexter added 18 points and DeWanna Bonner, selected as the league's Sixth Woman of the Year on Friday, had 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Mercury. Penny Taylor added 14 points for Phoenix off the bench.

"I think their bench contributed a lot for them tonight," Young said. "So if we can stop that and just let Diana and Cappie have theirs, stop everybody else (we'll have more success)."

Phoenix outscored San Antonio 14-2 in the final 3:41 of the first quarter. The Mercury hit nine of their first 10 shots, made its first four 3-pointers and took a 35-23 lead after the first quarter. Taurasi hit 5-of-7 from the field, including three three-pointers for 13 points. The 35 points broke the WNBA record for points in the first quarter of a playoff game (30).

"I thought we came out offensively getting some things done," said Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes. "But defensively, just had no answer to getting the game under control from a tempo standpoint. I thought Taurasi was the lead character in that, establishing that kind of story line for the game."

Then Phoenix ran off 13 straight points early in the second quarter to open up a 48-25 advantage with 5:56 left in the half.

"We were aggressive," Taylor said. "I think that's the key word. We were aggressive offensively and defensively at all times."

The Mercury shot 27-of-36 (75 percent) in the first half, led by Taurasi's 20, to take a 64-42 advantage at the break, the third-most points in a half in WNBA postseason history. Phoenix made 46-of-72 from the field on the night and outrebounded San Antonio 39-20.

"It didn't help us that they couldn't miss anything," Young said. "But I thought they attacked us in every aspect, and we were kind of on our back heels a lot during the whole game. If you are going to win, you can't let that happen."

Becky Hammon, the second-leading scorer in the WNBA this season at 19.5 a game, was held to 13 in 29 minutes. Vickie Johnson added 13 points and four assists, while Ann Wauters had 12 for San Antonio.

The Silver Stars beat Phoenix 92-91 in Thursday's playoff opener. The teams had split four games during the regular season.

Phoenix had the best record in the league while San Antonio, at 15-19, became the first team with a losing record to reach the Western Conference playoffs.