With only three weeks left in the WNBA regular season, the Mercury seem to be peaking when it matters.
On Sunday, the Mercury scored when it mattered most. Diana Taurasi calmly sank a pair of free throws with 3.7 seconds left, and Phoenix rejoiced on the U.S. Airways Center court with a 97-96 win over the Chicago Sky.
"We just did enough little things to win," Taurasi said afterward. She scored 35 points and had a career-high 11 assists.
It wasn't always pretty. The Mercury committed 19 turnovers in what a was foul-fest of a game, as both teams were whistled for 20 fouls. Mercury forward Candice Dupree had three scarlet-red scratches below her right shoulder, the result of a run-in with a Sky player when going up for a shot.
But Taurasi drew a foul at a critical time, colliding with Dominique Canty to get herself to the line for the winning free throws.
The Mercury (12-13) won its fifth game in the past si x, opening the final month of the season much like the way it played in July, when the team went 6-3 and averaged 106 points per game. Taurasi led the way in scoring, one of four Mercury players to reach double figures, recording her first double-double of the season and becoming the second player in WNBA history with a 30-point, 10-assist game.
Phoenix was out-rebounded 39-31 but shot 52.9 percent from the field compared to Chicago's 47.9. The Mercury got off to a sluggish start despite a big crowd of 11,237, which had to stand for 3 1/2 minutes until the Mercury got its first basket.
"We woke up in the second quarter," Mercury coach Corey Gaines said. "I told the players and coaches maybe three weeks ago, we'd have lost that game. We're a different team now."
Sylvia Fowles had the hot hand early for Chicago, torching the Mercury for 18 first-quarter points and 21 in the first half. The Mercury switched up its defense to a 1-3-1 zone with what Gaines labeled a "rover" to limit Fowles, which worked for two quarters against the 6-foot-6 third-year center.
Fowles, who scored 35 points in her first game in Phoenix and set a record for most points by an opposing player against the Mercury, came alive again in the fourth quarter to rally the Sky from a five-point deficit when the quarter began. She made three straight buckets and set up a fourth with blocked shot as the Sky had a four-point lead with 2:18 to play.
The turning point for the Mercury came win Taurasi delivered a mid-air, no-look pass to Dupree for a layup to cut Chicago's lead to 94-93 with 56 seconds left. After a Sky turnover, DeWanna Bonner made two free throws, but Jia Perkins got the shooter's bounce on a 16-foot jump shot that bounced high off the rim and back in.
The Mercury made its last possession count, and forced a turnover as the clock ran out.
Dupree had 19 points against her former team.
"We're mentally tough right now," she said. "But we can't come out the way we did. We have to come out a little more aggressive with a little more energy, but we pulled it out."