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PHOENIX – The last time the Storm visited the desert, it beat Phoenix so badly the Mercury made a coaching change two days later.

That did not work, either.

Point guard Temeka Johnson scored 16 of her game- and season-high 23 points in the first half and Tina Thompson became the second-leading rebounder in WNBA history in the Storm’s 81-73 victory at US Airways Center on Friday.

Seattle (13-13) has won 16 of the last 18 regular-season meetings against the Mercury, including all four this season — by an average margin of almost nine points.

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The Mercury (14-13) replaced Corey Gaines with coach Russ Pennell after the Storm’s most recent victory, 80-65, here Aug. 6.

Johnson made all of her shots — five field goals, five free throws — in the first half as the Storm built a 14-point lead late in the second quarter.

The Mercury was never closer than seven the rest of the way, and then only briefly.

“She was the one person early in the game who was breaking their defense down. She kept us in the game for a period of a time,” coach Brian Agler said.

The rising Storm, which has won four of five and seven of its last 10, played its customary throttling man-to-man defense against Mercury guard Diana Taurasi, holding her to four field goals and 16 points.

Taurasi, who is second in the league with a 21.4 scoring average, had 45 points and was 14 of 45 from the field in the season series.

Tanisha Wright covered Taurasi for most of the night, with help from Noelle Quinn.

“We just try to stay in plays with her as much as possible. She is one of the best players in the world and you have to respect that. We give it respect,” Wright said of Taurasi.

“She’s one of those type of players who smells blood. I don’t think people shut her down. It takes an army to do that.”

Thompson — who battled in the post with Brittney Griner, the first player drafted this year, for most of the night — had 18 points and seven rebounds.

Thompson’s first rebound, No. 3,014 of her career, moved her out of a tie with Taj McWilliams-Franklin behind only Lisa Leslie in league history.

“I guess it’s cool. I’ve been around long enough I should have some type of record going,” said Thompson, whose first season was 1997.

Johnson was held out of the fourth quarter after taking a blow to the face while defending a drive with 2:39 left in the third quarter.

She got sick to her stomach when she re-entered the game moments later, Agler said, and did not play again. She passed an initial concussion test during the game and was to undergo further examination last night, Agler said.

“Our people don’t think it is a concussion, but you have to check it out,” Agler said.

Storm guard Shekinna Stricklen appeared no worse for the wear after leaving in the second quarter of a 77-57 victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday with a strained Achilles tendon.

Stricklen started the game and had seven points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes.

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