PHOENIX——The Connecticut Sun may have blown a 21-point lead on Sunday, but the bottom line is they won in Phoenix for the first time in five years.
Tina Charles had 24 points and 12 rebounds and hit the final points of the game on two free throws with 1:17 left as the Sun took a 96-94 victory over the Mercury.
Sandrine Gruda had 21 points, Renee Montgomery scored 19 and Kelsey Griffin added 11 rebounds for the Sun (8-3), who had been 0-4 in Phoenix since June 25, 2005.
Diana Taurasi, coming off a 39-point game against San Antonio, scored 24 points and Penny Taylor 23 to lead the defending WNBA champion Mercury (5-7), who trailed 84-63 late in the third quarter before going on a 24-2 run. Two free throws by Taylor gave the Mercury an 87-86 lead with 4:53 left.
The teams traded points after DeWanna Bonner completed a three-point play to tie the score at 90 with 3:25 left. Bonner made two free throws to tie the score for the last time with 1:31 left, missing two with 29.9 seconds left.
Temeka Johnson missed a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.
"It was a typical game between our two teams," Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "We knew they were going to make a run at some point. I thought we played great for almost three quarters, then we went on a bad stretch and we didn't talk real well on defense for a few possessions and they made some big shots."
Thibault gave Gruda her first start of the season to have a bigger lineup, and Montgomery, coming off the bench for the first time, hit 5 of 7 three-pointers. The Sun were 10 of 18 from three as a team.
Charles had her eighth double-double in 11 games.
"We came out hard and this was a great win for us, especially on the road," Charles said. "They are an offensive-minded team so the main thing we had to do was focus on defense and try to get stops."
Charles' jumper gave the Sun an 84-63 lead with 45.9 seconds left in the third, but the Sun missed eight of their next nine shots.
Nicole Ohlde's layup 14 seconds later started the Mercury's 24-2 run. Taurasi had nine points during the spurt and Taylor seven, but neither scored again.
Anete Jekabsone-Zogota made two free throws with 4:16 left to end Connecticut's drought, and Gruda made a jumper — the Sun's first field goal of the fourth quarter — 30 seconds later for a 90-87 lead.
The Sun led 53-43 at the break, but missed nine of their first 12 shots of the third as the Mercury pulled to 60-58 on Johnson's running jumper with 5:25 left.
Montgomery made three threes during an 18-1 run that gave the Sun an 81-61 lead with 1:41 left in the third.
Connecticut improved to 4-0 against the Western Conference, which has only one team above .500 — league-best Seattle.
The Sun play Chicago Tuesday at the Mohegan Sun Arena, then Phoenix visits for a rematch on Friday.