Sparks 80

(23-9, 10-7 away)

Mercury 96

(14-16, 8-7 home)

    10:00 PM ET, August 5, 2006

    1 2 3 4 T
    LA 18 19 21 2280
    PHX 22 22 33 1996

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles: M. Page 18 Pts, 7 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl

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

    Taurasi, Mercury stay hot on heels of last playoff spot  

    PHOENIX (AP) -- Diana Taurasi was unaware she is on the verge of a WNBA scoring record.

    Taurasi had 34 points, moving within two points of the league's single-season record, and added seven assists to lead the Phoenix Mercury to a 96-80 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday night.

    "I had no clue," Taurasi said. "No one tells me these things. That's funny because I kept hearing someone in the crowd go, 'two points' and I was like, we're up by 22, two points for what?"

    Cappie Pondexter had 17 points and six assists for the Mercury (14-16), who have won three straight since losing four in a row. Phoenix (14-16) remained 2½ games behind fourth-place Seattle for the final postseason berth in the Western Conference with four games to play.

    "We're struggling to stay alive for the playoffs," Mercury coach Paul Westhead said. "So we know we must win and we figured out like everybody else that we need to win every game."

    Temeka Johnson had 17 points and five assists, and Murriel Page scored 16 points for Los Angeles (23-9), which lost its third straight after winning 10 of 11.

    "They're probably the favorites to win it all, I would say," Taurasi said of Sparks. "So today was a good win for us. Not only that, it keeps us alive. We are not going to roll over for anyone."

    Mercury center Kristen Rasmussen limited the Sparks' Lisa Leslie, averaging 20.3 points per game, to just eight on 3-for-10 shooting.

    "Coach came in and said me it was my job to keep the ball away from her, get it out of her hands, block her out," Rasmussen said. "Do whatever it took to try and take her out of the game."

    Leslie played just 29 minutes, two in the fourth quarter when the game was not in doubt.

    "Razz did a terrific man-to-man job, but we were doubling the moment that Leslie got the ball," Westhead said. "So she was getting double team. We learned from some of our mistakes. We did that the first time we played and Lisa Leslie dumped that ball off to people going down the lane for open shots. Well, nobody got any of them today."

    The Mercury used a pair of 10-0 runs to pull away from the West's top team. The second run put Phoenix ahead 58-41 with 6:12 left in the third quarter, and the Mercury led by as much as 23 in the final period.

    "They also played with a different energy," Los Angeles coach Joe Bryant said. "Because they know the importance."

    Katie Smith holds the league record with 739 points in 32 games for Minnesota in 2001.

    The Mercury ran off 10 straight points in the second quarter to take a 38-26 lead with 3:39 left.

    Phoenix had held Los Angeles to 7-for-26 shooting and Leslie to three points, but the Sparks made 10-of-11 free throws to stay close. Leslie scored back-to-back baskets in the final 1:20 of the half to cut the lead, and Johnson's layup with 2.6 seconds left got Los Angeles to within 44-37 at the break.

    "We didnt execute well on defense either," Johnson said. "They had us back on our heels."

    Los Angeles forward Chamique Holdsclaw, averaging 12.5 points as a reserve, missed a second game with plantar fasciitis in her left foot.

    Los Angeles had beaten Phoenix by an average of 8.0 points in the first three meetings this season.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

      Los Angeles Phoenix
    Points 80 96
    FG Made-Attempted 30-72 (.000) 38-65 (.000)
    3P Made-Attempted 4-18 (.222) 9-19 (.474)
    FT Made-Attempted 18-22 (.000) 11-14 (.000)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 10-28 5-28
    Assists 16 27
    Turnovers 17 18
    Steals 8 10
    Blocks 2 5
    Fast Break Points 11 26
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 15 (0/0) 16 (1/0)