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Lynx-Mercury Preview

Jul 21, 2009 - 3:54 PM By DAN PIERINGER STATS Writer

Minnesota (9-7) at Phoenix (12-4), 10:00 p.m. EDT

The Phoenix Mercury managed to protect their longest winning streak of the season despite Diana Taurasi's absence.

They'll try to extend the run again by beating another team that's learning how to play without its top scorer.

With Taurasi finishing a two-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, the Western Conference-leading Mercury go for their seventh straight win Wednesday as they host the Minnesota Lynx, whose strong play without injured star Seimone Augustus has begun to fade.

Phoenix (12-4) had won five straight when it suspended Taurasi for two games because of charges stemming from her drunk driving citation July 2. While the Mercury could've used Taurasi's league-best 20.7 points per game Saturday night, they overcame her absence and pulled out a 97-90 overtime win over Detroit.

Cappie Pondexter, second in the league with 20.3 points per game, scored 26 and added seven rebounds and eight assists, while Le'coe Willingham scored six of her 22 in overtime as Phoenix improved to 6-0 in July. It's the Mercury's longest winning streak since they won nine in a row - four during the playoffs - during their championship run in 2007.

"There were a lot of points missing," Pondexter said Saturday. "But it just showed us how great we can be even when one of our best players is not in the game and we're still able to win."

Willingham, averaging a career-best 11.4 points, was four shy of her season high in the Mercury's first game without Taurasi this year. She also matched her highest rebound total of the year with seven, while Temeka Johnson tied her season best with 18 points.

"Everyone collectively knew we had to step up with Diana not being here," Willingham said. "But at the same time, with her not being here, we have a team that can hurt you from many different areas."

The Lynx (9-7) know all about having to make up for the absence of a key player. They were in first place in the West when Augustus suffered a season-ending knee injury in a 104-80 road loss to the Mercury on June 17.

Minnesota won three of its first four without Augustus, including a 109-80 home rout of Phoenix on June 27. But the Lynx have dropped four of six in July, losing 72-69 at Seattle on Sunday despite leading by eight with six minutes left.

Minnesota shot 53.1 percent from the field, but it committed 20 turnovers to the Storm's 11.

The Lynx have lost three straight in Phoenix by an average of 14.7 points. They've held Pondexter to 12.7 points in those games, but the All-Star guard has also added 5.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists per contest.

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