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Leslie, Holdsclaw combine for 48 points; Sparks stay hot

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- When the Phoenix Mercury focused on stopping Lisa Leslie, Chamique Holdsclaw and Christi Thomas picked it up.

Leslie scored 26 points and Holdslclaw added 22 as the Sparks beat the Phoenix Mercury 98-84 on Tuesday night. Thomas scored 16 of her career-high 18 in the first half to help Los Angeles (6-3) win its third straight.

"I think that everybody understands that our strength on this team is Lisa Leslie and they understand that in order to beat this team, you have to take away the inside game," Thomas said. "That is what they tried to do tonight. We worked well together and are starting to come together and gel."

Leslie, selected to the WNBA's All-Decade team earlier in the evening, said she believed the Sparks have improved on offense and defense.

"I thought we played very good team basketball," Leslie said.

Los Angeles outscored Phoenix 30-13 in the second quarter to take a 53-37 lead into the break, and then 26-19 in the third quarter to put the game away.

Diana Taurasi scored a career-high 32 points and rookie Cappie Pondexter added 20 for the Mercury (2-5), who snapped a two-game winning streak.

"The Sparks outplayed us for 40 minutes," Taurasi said. "We just have to learn to play with more energy when we're on the road."

Sparks guard Mwadi Mabika scored her 3,000th career point early in the game when she made a 3-pointer, making her the 12th WNBA player accomplish the feat.

Leslie is the league's all-time leading scorer with 4,928 points.