Sparks 76

(7-4, 3-4 away)

Mercury 74

(4-5, 3-3 home)

    10:00 PM ET, June 18, 2004

    US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

    1 2 3 4 T
    LA 49 27 76
    PHX 34 40 74

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles: L. Leslie 17 Pts, 14 Reb, 2 Ast, 4 Stl, 1 Blk

    Phoenix: D. Taurasi 25 Pts, 2 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl

    Leslie leads Sparks to fourth straight win

    PHOENIX (AP) -- The Los Angeles Sparks made their fourth straight victory a lot more exciting than it appeared it would be.

    A 23-point lead was cut down to single digits, but the Sparks held on to beat the Phoenix Mercury yet again Friday night. Lisa Leslie scored 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and the Sparks survived two late rallies to hold off the Mercury 76-74.

    Phoenix's 21-3 run got the Mercury within five, and No. 1 draft pick Diana Taurasi hit consecutive 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 71-69 with 56.7 seconds left.

    "We got caught into a comfort zone," Sparks coach Michael Cooper said. "And when you do that against any team, not necessarily Phoenix, but any team, you're bound to give them a chance to get back in."

    Leslie was called for a charging foul, but Phoenix couldn't take advantage. Leslie then missed one of two free throws with 27.4 seconds remaining, but Anna DeForge missed on a driving layup. Tamecka Dixon made two free throws with 9.8 seconds left to put Los Angeles ahead 74-69.

    "They really jumped on us and just played harder," said Leslie, who has six double-doubles this season. "It wasn't anything where they did anything different, they just played harder."

    But the Sparks still managed to defeat Phoenix for the 15th consecutive time, dating to July 17, 1999.

    "It was a game of two halves," Phoenix coach Carrie Graf said. "We showed character to fight like we did and get ourselves back in the game in the second half. We lacked maturity in the first half to stick to the game plan and play with intensity."

    Taurasi scored 25 points on 8-of-21 shooting to lead the Mercury, who have lost four of five.

    Dixon added 19 points for the Sparks, and DeLisha Milton-Jones had 13.

    "We knew they were going to make a run," Dixon said. "Every home team does. We just tried to stand our ground and really execute down the stretch."

    After missing eight of her first nine shots, Taurasi scored 13 points during Phoenix's big run that got the Mercury within 63-58 with 7:10 left.

    "Taurasi can will her will upon an opposing team," Cooper said. "Once that starts happening, everyone starts shooting 3s and they get to rolling. But again it was a good effort by us."

    Milton-Jones scored 12 points in the first half and Dixon added 11 to lead the Sparks to a 49-34 halftime lead.

    Phoenix missed 11 of its first 17 shots, and six straight points by Leslie and Mwadi Mabika gave the Sparks a 60-37 advantage with 14:38 left.

    "Against great teams like L.A., we can't afford to get in a hole like that," Graf said. "We can do it. It's just a matter of doing it from start to finish."

    The Mercury played without second-leading scorer Penny Taylor, who was working out with the Australian national team this week in preparation for next month's Olympics. Taylor averages 12.3 points and four rebounds a game.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

      Los Angeles Phoenix
    Points 76 74
    FG Made-Attempted 24-48 (.000) 27-61 (.000)
    3P Made-Attempted 4-7 (.571) 6-16 (.375)
    FT Made-Attempted 24-29 (.000) 14-18 (.000)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 6-27 10-26
    Assists 11 16
    Turnovers 17 14
    Steals 8 8
    Blocks 2 4
    Fast Break Points 5 0
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 23 (0/0) 27 (1/0)