Sparks 95

(17-5, 5-3 away)

Mercury 85

(8-11, 5-5 home)

    10:00 PM ET, July 14, 2006

    1 2 3 4 T
    LA 22 22 26 2595
    PHX 15 19 33 1885

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles: L. Leslie 30 Pts, 12 Reb, 6 Ast, 1 Stl, 4 Blk

    Phoenix: D. Taurasi 34 Pts, 7 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl

    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.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

      Los Angeles Phoenix
    Points 95 85
    FG Made-Attempted 36-65 (.000) 26-66 (.000)
    3P Made-Attempted 5-11 (.455) 8-22 (.364)
    FT Made-Attempted 18-24 (.000) 25-31 (.000)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 7-37 7-29
    Assists 17 16
    Turnovers 11 11
    Steals 5 6
    Blocks 4 3
    Fast Break Points 8 7
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (0/0) 20 (0/0)