Mercury-Sparks Preview

The Associated Press

The slumping Phoenix Mercury couldn't keep up with the Los Angeles Sparks over the weekend, and things aren't about to get any easier with a visit to Staples Center up next.

The Mercury could again be without Brittney Griner as they try to avoid a season-high fourth straight defeat Thursday night against the surging Sparks, who haven't lost at home in over a year.

Phoenix (8-7) had posted five consecutive victories before falling 91-59 at Minnesota on July 7 and 88-80 to San Antonio last Wednesday. The Mercury had their hands full again Sunday versus Los Angeles, which limited them to 39.7 percent shooting in an 88-76 defeat.

Leading the league with 21.5 points per game, Diana Taurasi had 23 but Phoenix was outscored 46-36 in the paint and 21-10 in transition.

"Not executing on offense," Taurasi said. "We get positions where we take bad shots and that gives them a good opportunity to run. They do a better job of that. We fought for forty minutes; it just wasn't our day."

The Mercury could have a hard time bouncing back without Griner, who remains day to day with a left knee injury. The No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft is averaging 14.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and a WNBA-leading 2.8 blocks.

While the Mercury beat the Sparks 97-81 on June 14 behind Taurasi's season-high 34 points, they have dropped four straight road matchups in the series, including two last year by an average of 20.5 points. Phoenix's last win in Los Angeles came Aug. 17, 2010.

The Sparks (11-4) extended their season-best winning streak to six and improved to 9-0 at home with Wednesday's 77-73 victory over Atlanta. Kristi Toliver scored 15 points while Lindsey Harding and Alana Beard added 13 apiece for Los Angeles, which held on despite getting outrebounded 45-36, including 17-5 on the offensive glass.

Candace Parker had averaged 23.2 points over a six-game stretch before putting up six - her second-lowest total of the year - on 2-of-10 shooting. The former WNBA MVP, though, had 10 rebounds and three blocks.

The Sparks shot 44.1 percent and were held to 8.2 points fewer than their league-leading average of 85.2, but limited the Dream to 35.6 percent shooting. Los Angeles had averaged 93.6 points and shot 54.2 percent shooting in its previous five games.

"It was definitely hard," Harding said. "We usually hit a lot more shots than we did, but I think it was a great win because we had to rely on our defense.''

Sitting one-half game in back of Minnesota for the league's best record, Los Angeles has won 19 consecutive regular-season contests on its own court since falling 91-71 to San Antonio on June 24, 2012.

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