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Leslie's double-double neutralizes Mercury, Taurasi

PHOENIX (AP) -- Diana Taurasi put on a show in the second half,
but it wasn't enough to overcome Lisa Leslie and the Los Angeles
Sparks.

Leslie had 30 points, 12 rebounds and six assists to help the
Sparks beat the Phoenix Mercury 95-85 on Friday night.

The team with the best record in the league (17-5) held off a
second-half rally by the Mercury, sparked by a 22-point third
quarter by Taurasi, who finished with 34 points.

"Diana is Diana, I wasn't surprised that Diana was going to put
the ball up -- she's just great," Leslie said. "She really got them
back in the game. But we weathered the storm. We didn't panic, and
we just tried to stick with our defense and get some stops and we
were able to execute on offense."

Chamique Holdsclaw added 22 points for the Sparks, who won their
fourth straight game.

"Teams like Phoenix are going to make a run at you," Los
Angeles coach Joe Bryant said. "It's can you withstand that run
and that's what we did tonight."

Taurasi hit her first six shots in the third quarter after
missing five of six in the first half and gave Phoenix its first lead
since the first two minutes of the game with her third 3-pointer of
the period. But she missed six of her last nine shots and the
Mercury never got closer than three in the final quarter.

Temeka Johnson scored 13 points, including consecutive
three-point plays that broke open a 76-72 game in the fourth
quarter.

"Sometimes your opponent just beats you," Phoenix coach Paul
Westhead said. "I don't like to say that because you always hope
that your team is good enough to play above whatever the opposition
is. Lisa Leslie played the whole game like an All-Star and then for
those big fourth quarter moments Tameka Johnson took over the
game."

Pondexter and Kamila Vodichkova each added 12 points for Phoenix
(8-11), which has lost four of its last six.

Taurasi, who scored a franchise-record 36 against New York in
her last game before the All-Star break, added seven rebounds,
three assists and a pair of steals.

"She's just great," Leslie said of Taurasi. "Diana could just
come in, she could miss five shots, she could shoot airballs and
then knock down eight 3-pointers from half court. It's amazing to
watch her play."

Holdsclaw scored 12 points off the bench to help the Sparks grab
a 44-34 lead at halftime.

Taurasi and Pondexter, who combined for 45 points a game, were
just 2-for-10 from the field in the first half.

"I told my players that one of them was going to get hot,"
Bryant said. "We did the analogy, when Taurasi got hot and started
hitting those shots, I said it was like getting a left hook from
Joe Frazier, but we're still standing."

The Sparks are 15-0 when leading at the half.

"I think we have more weapons and we were defensively kind of
shut them down, slow her down (Taurasi) down a little bit down the
stretch," Leslie said.