|Mercury prepare for playoffs, Liberty for vacation|
The Phoenix Mercury and the New York Liberty are on different paths -- one positioning for the WNBA playoffs and the other thinking of next season.
The Mercury (19-14) are looking to remain on the upswing when they host the Liberty (7-26) on Sunday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
After going through a recent 2-9 stretch, Phoenix won its third straight game with a 104-95 victory over visiting Atlanta on Friday. The Liberty, beset by injuries most of the season, have dropped 12 straight games, including an 85-77 loss at Seattle on Friday.
Phoenix had dominant performances against Atlanta from its top three players, all of whom posted double-doubles -- center Brittney Griner (33 points, 18 rebounds), forward DeWanna Bonner (21 points, 16 rebounds) and guard Diana Taurasi (27 points, 14 assists).
Taurasi, who matched her career high with the assist total, was one away from becoming the second player in WNBA history with a 20-point, 15-assist game after Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot did so July 20.
Phoenix had a season-high 29 assists against Atlanta.
"(Taurasi's) a great passer, I don't think anyone passes the ball as well as her, that sees how they're defending her," Phoenix coach Sandra Brondello said. "And then it's just about making shots. We're shooting the ball well and we have that confidence. Every game is a new challenge for us, and I think we did a good job of executing the scout for the most part."
With the win over Atlanta and Connecticut's victory over Minnesota, the Mercury secured at least the sixth spot in the playoffs and a home game in the first round, which will take place Aug. 21 at Arizona State's Wells Fargo Arena.
New York, meanwhile, will try to get through one last game without four injured players (Epiphanny Prince, Kia Vaughn, Amanda Zahui B and Shavonte Zellous).
Liberty coach Katie Smith said she can only tell her team to "play hard."
"Ever since we found out we're out of playoff contention they've still battled," Smith said. "We've got a lot of people playing minutes who didn't play that many early. There's always something to improve upon, always something to do to earn a spot next year or earn more money somewhere.
"Again, it's a pride thing of going out and competing. I have been proud of them every night they've come out. A lot of people are asked to play a ton of minutes and they've been willing to do so.
"I'm happy and proud of their effort, but again, lots of little things we can do better and we'll keep coaching them."