PHOENIX (AP) - Apparently, the playoffs aren't that different to Candice Dupree.
Having never played in the WNBA postseason, Dupree scored a career-high 32 points to lead the Phoenix Mercury to a 106-93 win over the San Antonio Silver Stars on Thursday night in the first game of the best-of-three Western Conference semifinals.
``It was a great experience, my first playoff game,' said the fifth-year forward acquired in the offseason by the Mercury from Chicago. ``The intensity was high, everyone was extremely motivated and now our goal is to get this series in two.'
Game 2 is Saturday in San Antonio with a deciding game, if needed, on Monday in Phoenix.
``She was all over the court, rebounding, running the lane,' Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said. ``She was posting up on early transition, caught a couple of plays that we don't usually use for her coming across the lane. But she had good looks tonight.'
Penny Taylor added 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds for the Mercury while WNBA leading scorer Diana Taurasi was held to 14 points but added 10 assists.
Becky Hammon led the Silver Stars with 19 points while Sophia Young added 16 points and nine rebounds, although she was nearly shutout in the first half.
``I've said this before, they did a great job of going out and getting a great player who fits their style,' Hammon said of Dupree, who came to Phoenix in a three-team deal that sent all-star Cappie Pondexter, the league's second-leading scorer this year, to New York. ``She's a big who runs the floor.'
The Mercury beat the Silver Stars in three games in the first round last year, but did so with big scoring from Taurasi and others. The all-star had just nine points going into the fourth quarter on Thursday.
``Diana was really putting a lot of ball pressure on people,' Gaines said. ``She played the point guard role tonight a lot. She was throwing perfect passes to people to score. She can do it all.'
Dupree scored 32 points against Minnesota on July 24. Despite picking up her fourth foul, Dupree scored 10 points in the third quarter and Phoenix finished the period on an 11-3 run to extend its lead to 77-63 going into the final quarter.
``Dupree shot 67 percent from the field for the season, she gets a lot of easy baskets,' said San Antonio coach Sandy Brondello. ``And they hurt us in pick-and-rolls. Our rotations were a little late. They are a very good passing team, they had 33 assists.'
Taurasi, after joking that Dupree didn't have a good night, having missed five shots, said, ``She played amazing. And that's what we are going to need if we are going to make any type of run -- people stepping up and playing big.'
The two teams split their four regular season games, with San Antonio beating Phoenix 83-82 in Sunday's regular season finale on a last-second three-point play, although the Mercury sat two of their stars, Taurasi and Taylor.
The Mercury averaged 93.9 points a game but also gave up 93.8 points a game this season in Corey Gaines' up-tempo style.
Dupree scored 18 points and had five rebounds, just one field goal short of the league playoff record for most baskets in a half.
After Phoenix scored the first six points of the second quarter, San Antonio found some offense, hitting four 3-pointers in a span of 4:19 to cut the lead. San Antonio got within 46-39 at the break.
Phoenix made 10 of its first 15 shots, repeatedly going inside against a smaller Silver Stars lineup. The Mercury ran off 13 straight points and capped a 21-5 run with a pretty Dupree-to-Bonner-to-Dupree basket off a Silver Stars turnover that gave the Mercury a 23-10 lead. Dupree scored 12 points, all in the lane, to lead Phoenix to a 25-16 advantage after one.
Bonner, earlier in the day named the WNBA's sixth woman of the year for the second season in a row, played tough defense on the perimeter and blocked four shots for the Mercury.
The Associated Press News Service
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