Seattle Storm Suffer A Tough 81-79 Loss To Phoenix Mercury

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 26: Sue Bird #10 of the Seattle Storm puts up a shot over Diana Taurasi #3 of the Phoenix Mercury during the WNBA game at US Airways Center on July 26, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Storm defeated the Mercury 83-77. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Seattle Storm (13-12) fell to the Phoenix Mercury (14-10) at the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona tonight. With the loss, the Storm end the night in fourth place in the Western Conference. For more on the Storm and the WNBA, visit SB Nation's women's basketball site Swish Appeal.

Playing without guard Tanisha Wright, the Seattle Storm's 81-79 road loss to the Phoenix Mercury tonight ended a nine-game winning streak against their Western Conference rivals.

Despite shooting 52.6 percent from the field and being up by as many as 18 points in the second quarter and 15 in the third, the Storm once again struggled to overcome turnovers, committing 17 for the game and key ones down the stretch as the Mercury completed their comeback.

SBN Arizona's Seth Pollack gave credit to the Mercury's increased defensive intensity.

The Mercury turned up the pressure in the third quarter with a strong effort from Taylor and great defensive intensity from Marie Ferdinand-Harris off the bench. They still were only able to cut five points off the lead which took us into the fourth quarter with the Storm up 59-50 and shooting over 53 percent from the field.

The momentum carried into the fourth quarter with the Mercury quickly cutting the deficit down to two points within a couple of minutes before a stretch of both teams exchanging buckets held the margin steady.

Sue Bird scored a team-high 23 points with a game-high eight assists, but unlike previous games this season the Storm got a more balanced effort. The Storm had four players in double figures and Le'coe Willingham contributed 16 points off the bench.

Yet more disappointing than squandering a lead and hot shooting was having to take a loss in the thick of a playoff race.

With forward Candace Parker returning from injury for the fifth place Los Angeles Sparks and the third place San Antonio Silver Stars already having lost, tonight's loss represented yet another lost opportunity to move up in the playoff standings this season.

With the loss, the Storm end the night in fourth place, 1.5 games behind Phoenix in second place. Fortunately for the Storm, Parker's debut at Staples Center was spoiled by the Atlanta Dream in an 84-79 loss that had an even more dramatic finish than the one in Phoenix. Their next game is at home against the New York Liberty on Saturday.

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