WASHINGTON – The Phoenix Mercury' strong start helped them avoid matching a season-high losing skid. The Washington Mystics' late comeback attempt wasn't enough to end their struggles.
Candice Dupree scored a season-high 27 points and Diana Taurasi finished with 21 points as the Mercury snapped a two-game losing streak with an 86-79 win over the Mystics on Sunday.
Phoenix (16-12) scored the game's first points, led 11-1 less than 3 minutes in, and by 16 points in the first quarter. The Mercury, who led 43-34 at halftime, opened the second half with a 13-0 run to extend the advantage to 22 points.
"We talked before the game about getting off to a quick start, making sure we were fluid on both ends of the court. It worked," said Dupree, who shot 10 for 14 from the field and 7 for 7 from the free-throw line.
Matee Ajavon's 3-pointer with 13.8 seconds remaining capped a 16-4 run over the final 4 minutes to pull the Mystics to 84-79, but Taurasi followed with two free throws.
"We kind of let slip a little bit in the fourth quarter, but a win is a win," Dupree said. "We definitely needed it."
Crystal Langhorne had 27 points and 12 rebounds for the Mystics (5-23), who have lost eight straight — matching the third-longest streak in franchise history. It was also Washington's third straight game allowing at least 80 points.
"When you're starting down 10 points, that's a killer trying to fight back the entire game," said Langhorne, who notched her fifth double-double of the season and first since July 20.
Phoenix, which leads the WNBA in scoring and assists, had 16 assists on its 18 first-half field goals and finished with 25 assists.
"When we're moving the ball and getting up and down the floor, things tend to work in our favor," said Dupree, who was assertive with the ball in her hands throughout, consistently driving toward the paint.
"They have very good offensive post players so I figured hey, you're good at one thing on one end, you're usually not as good on the end," Dupree said. "Just try to attack as much as possible. It was working."
The Mercury shot only 3 of 11 from the field in the fourth quarter, but made 11 of 12 free throws. Phoenix finished 18 for 19 from the line.
In the second and final meeting of the season between the two teams, the Mercury shot 61 percent (11 of 18) in the first quarter and Dupree scored 14 in the first half. Taurasi added 11 points and five of her seven assists before halftime as the Mercury would go on to sweep the season series.
"I think we played really well in stretches where we controlled tempo both ways," said Taurasi, one of only two Mercury players to score in double figures.
Langhorne scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the first half, but the Mystics were never able to climb out from that very early hole.
"Phoenix is a great team, especially offensively so you have to play well offensively with them," said the All-Star forward, who has continued to produce during a trying Mystics campaign. "It's frustrating, but we have a great group of girls and we're going to keep trying to win."
Ajavon scored 15 points and Jasmine Thomas matched her career-high with 14 points.