Mercury-Sparks Preview

The Associated Press

After a trying offseason, the Los Angeles Sparks opened the year on the right foot.

They would appear to have a more difficult challenge awaiting them Sunday night.

Looking to win its first two games for just the second time in six seasons, Los Angeles opens its home schedule against the Phoenix Mercury in a rematch of last year's Western Conference semifinals.

Candace Parker scored 18 points and Alana Beard added 17 as the Sparks won 80-69 over Seattle on Friday. Los Angeles, which led by 16 after three quarters, forced 19 turnovers and held a 30-26 rebounding edge.

"This win is sweeter - we all realized what could have been," Parker said of the uncertainty surrounding the team in January after the previous owners gave up control. "Sometimes, you have to have something almost taken away to be appreciative of it."

The Sparks, who were purchased in February by a group led by Magic Johnson and Los Angeles Dodgers controlling owner Mark R. Walter, are hoping to make the most of their second chance in LA.

"We beat a good Seattle team, but we don't know where we're going to be in a couple games, or where they're going to be in a couple games," said Parker, whose team opened 2-0 in 2012. "We're going to take this for what it's worth. We started off well, and we'll just keep it rolling, hopefully."

The Sparks will surely be out for revenge against the Mercury (1-0), who knocked them out of the playoffs with a 78-77 win in Game 3 on Brittney Griner's turnaround jumper with 4.9 seconds left.

Phoenix hits the road after easily getting by the Storm 81-64 on Saturday, snapping a string of three consecutive season-opening defeats. Griner led the way with 19 points while shooting 8 of 9 and DeWanna Bonner and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota each scored 11.

"It was important for me to be patient," Griner said. "I know if I get my shot blocked a couple of times, I would definitely not try to take it all the way all the time."

Griner added five blocks, four of which came in the first five minutes.

"I think she's getting comfortable in the league," Storm forward Camille Little said of Griner, who led the WNBA with 3.0 blocks per game as a rookie last year. "She was more mobile, defensively and offensively."

The Mercury, who shot 55.9 percent while holding the Storm to 33.9, took a 25-11 lead into the second quarter and never looked back.

"The key stat for me was we kept this team to 34 percent. Our goal is to hold teams to 40 percent," first-year coach Sandy Brondello said. "We can still get better."

Phoenix has dropped five of six regular-season road meetings with the Sparks.

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