PHOENIX- The Seattle Storm isn’t ready to give up its title just yet.
When Lauren Jackson went down with a left hip labrium earlier in the season, it appeared as if the reigning champions would give up their throne, but the Storm (9-7) defeated the Phoenix Mercury (10-6), 83-77, Tuesday night, looking every bit the team that went 28-6 in 2010.
Counting last season’s playoff sweep, the Storm has now won eight straight over the Mercury.
Marie Ferdiand-Harris hit a three just before the buzzer to put the Mercury up 27-18 at the end of the first quarter. However, the Storm opened the second on an 11-2 run. Belinda Snell hit two three pointers a minute apart, as Seattle went on a 10-0 run midway thought the third.
With five minutes to play, the Mercury began closing the double-digit gap when Alexis Gray-Lawson knocked a trey after coming off the bench, and DeWanna Bonner hit a beautiful turnaround jumper with the shot clock winding down.
A Diana Taurasi finger roll with a minute left cut the lead to one, and Phoenix looked in good shape after Tanisha Wright’s three just missed the end of the shot clock with 36 seconds left.
Then, Camille Little picked off Temeka Johnson and layed it in to put Seattle up three.
Taurasi hit a free throw to make it a two-point game. Sue Bird, at 5-foot-9, slipped and was wrapped up on the floor at center court, resulting in a jumpball with 6-foot-4 DeWanna Bonner. The towering Bonner tipped the ball to Storm All-Star MVP Swin Cash, and Wright made four more free throws to secure the victory.
Taurasi had a night worthy of her status as one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Greatest Players, scoring 26 on 9-of-15 shooting.
“We went out there and played hard,” Taurasi said. “I think it was that part of the third quarter where they raised intensity a bit, we didn’t match it. We’re just trying to find a balance for the entire game.”
Bonner and Candice Dupree also added 10 a piece for the Mercury. Bonner had six rebounds and tied a career high with three blocks.
Bird led the Storm with 18 points and seven assists, followed by Little with 15 points. Cash and Le’Coe Willingham tied for the team lead of eight rebounds.
“I’m just happy about the win,” Bird said. “This is a very good Phoenix team, and a very tough environment to play in, and to be able to get win against a Western Conference team on the road is big for us.”
Ashley Robinson had another solid game filling in at center for Jackson, scoring eight and grabbing seven. She had a career-high 14 points July 19 at Chicago.
“It’s big shoes to fill,” Robinson said. “I’m just trying to work hard, trying to do my part. We’re doing it as a team, and we’re all reaping in the benefits by playing better.”
The Mercury next goes on a road trip to San Antonio at 9:30 a.m. PT Thursday. It returns home Aug. 7 vs the Connecticut Sun. The Storm is at Minnesota Friday.
AROUND THE LEAGUE TUESDAY
Angel McCoughtry scored 37 points as the Atlanta Dream defeated the Tulsa Shock, 76-68. The Minnesota Lynx stayed one up on the Mercury in the standings with an 85-72 win over the Los Angeles Sparks, despite 28 from Kristi Toliver. The Connecticut Sun beat the Chicago Sky, 77-66, and the San Antonio Silver Stars edged the Washington Mystics, 73-67, behind Becky Hammon’s 22.
By the way, who wants to go back to 1999 and bet that the undrafted Hammon would make the list of the league’s 15 greatest players in 2011 and Chamique Holdsclaw wouldn’t? That is an unbelievable accomplishment.