Taylor, Taurasi lead Mercury past Liberty

Penny Taylor kept the Phoenix Mercury in control most of the game and Diana Taurasi finished off the New York Liberty in the final minute.

Taylor scored 29 points, Taurasi had 16, including a key layup and 3-pointer in the final 40 seconds, and the Mercury beat the Liberty 91-84 Saturday night.

"She was great," Taurasi said of Taylor. "She was the only person really giving us anything offensively. And the way they schemed defensively, it's hard but she found a way to kind of find her spots and made them pay."

Candice Dupree added 10 points and seven rebounds to help the Mercury (11-7) snap a three-game losing streak. Phoenix shot 51 percent (29 for 57) from the field and 26 for 28 from the free-throw line. Taylor was 8 for 11 on field goals and 11 for 11 on free throws.

Taurasi hedged when asked if the Mercury, who had won 10 of 11 before their skid, were desperate for a victory.

"We didn't really say anything in the locker room, we didn't act that way but I think it just happens naturally when you think you're a pretty good team and you lose three in a row," she said. "A couple of games we probably should've won if we did the right things ... so there was probably a sense of desperation underneath our confidence."

Nicole Powell scored 16 points, Plenette Pierson had 15 and Cappie Pondexter 13 for the Liberty (10-8), who lost for the third time in five games after winning four straight. Essence Carson added 12 points and Kia Vaughn had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Pondexter, averaging 17.4 points and shooting 43 percent from the field coming in, was just 4 for 19, including 1 for 8 on 3s.

"I don't think I took any bad shots," she said. "I probably could have gone to the basket a lot more. ... It's kind of a mental thing I guess, for myself. But you have those kinds of games sometimes."

Taylor's three-point play with 5:45 to go extended Phoenix's lead to 78-69, its biggest of the game.

The Liberty then started to chip away. Pierson had a layup and made a free throw to pull New York within five with 3½ minutes to go. Powell made a pull-up jumper and Pondexter hit a 3 to get the Liberty to 84-82 with 1:30 remaining.

After Dupree threw the ball away for the Mercury's 20th turnover, Carson was whistled for an offensive foul on the other end.

Taurasi then had a layup with 39 seconds to go to push the lead back to four, and after Pondexter missed a jumper at the other end, Taurasi hit a 3 with 25 remaining to seal the win. Ketia Swanier added two free throws with 11 seconds to go.

"We had a chance, we got it back 84-82," Liberty coach John Whisenant said. "We were with the ball and we just needed to execute and ... we got a charge. That's something we need to work on. We can't do that and expect to win against good teams."

Mercury coach Corey Gaines was puzzled by his team's turnover total, which led to 30 points for the Liberty.

"Twenty turnovers in a game, I do not know why it's happening," Gaines said. "They were being too unselfish. If you cut those in half we would have another 10 points in the game. It's one of those things where we'll get it fixed."

After Taylor's layup in the opening minute of the third quarter gave Phoenix an eight-point lead, New York used a 10-2 run to tie the score on Powell's 3 with about 7:23 left in the period.

The score remained close, with six more ties and neither team leading by more than three until Phoenix scored seven consecutive points to take a 70-65 lead on DeWanna Bonner's layup with under 9 minutes to go in the game.

Pondexter made two free throws to pull the Liberty within three, but Bonner had another layup and Taurasi — fouled while shooting a 3 — made three from the line to push the Mercury's lead to eight with 6:55 left.

Taylor scored 11 points and Dupree had 10 in the first half as the Mercury led 42-36 at the break.

The Mercury shot 50 percent (14 for 28), including 9 for 14 in the second quarter as they outscored the Liberty 25-17. New York was 8 for 21 in the first quarter and 8 for 20 in the second

"They kept pressing on the board during the first half," Taylor said. "We came back and played hard basketball towards the end. It came down to defense and defensive rebounds, of course."

The Mercury used a 15-1 run to go ahead 42-34 on Dupree's layup with under 25 seconds to go in the second quarter. Taylor and Dupree had four points each during the spurt.

Carson's layup with 13 seconds left was New York's first field goal in slightly more than 3 minutes.