Sparks-Mercury Preview


With Diana Taurasi still hurting and Penny Taylor out for the season, the Phoenix Mercury may have to rely on their supporting cast for the foreseeable future.

Candice Dupree proved she's up to the challenge in the most recent contest, and she'll look for another outstanding performance when the Mercury seek their sixth straight home victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday night.

Taurasi sat out Sunday's season opener with a strained left hip flexor, then played only 10 minutes after starting an 89-87 win over Tulsa on Tuesday. She hit one 3-pointer before heading to the bench.

''We wanted her to test (the injury), but you could tell when she got on the court that she just couldn't move,'' coach Corey Gaines said.

Taylor tore her left ACL on March 29 playing overseas, and it's uncertain how much Taurasi will be able to play Friday, if at all.

Phoenix (1-1), though, may not have to worry if Dupree has another stellar game. She scored 31 points - one fewer than her career high - and grabbed nine rebounds, including an offensive board that led to Samantha Prahalis hitting two free throws to help the Mercury earn the victory.

''At our last practice, we set up some different plays for (Dupree) and told her to be aggressive,'' Gaines said. ''To get this win on the road and avoid starting 0-2 is big for us.''

Taurasi scored 24 points and Dupree added 22 to lead Phoenix to a 93-77 victory over Los Angeles on Sept. 3. That extended its home winning streak over the Sparks to five dating to the series-clinching Game 3 of the 2009 Western Conference finals.

Candace Parker netted a game-high 32 points and Kristi Toliver added 23 in the most recent meeting for the Sparks (2-1), who fell 92-84 to Minnesota on Thursday.

Los Angeles led by nine in the second half but was outscored 26-14 in the fourth quarter. The Sparks allowed 24 points combined in the fourth in two wins over Seattle to open the season.

Parker and Toliver each scored 23, and No. 1 overall pick Nnemkadi Ogwumike added 20 and nine rebounds.

''I felt like we played 36 minutes,'' Parker said. ''We were up on them for 36 minutes, and then the last four minutes killed us.''

The Sparks will be playing their third game in five days. They were scheduled to play the home-and-home with Seattle last Friday and Saturday, but the second contest was shifted to Tuesday due to the Staples Center hosting NHL and NBA playoff games through the weekend.

Rather than having four days to prepare for the defending champion Lynx, they had one day off between games.

''Some of it was fatigue on our part," coach Carol Ross said. "We're a little short-handed in some spots. But good teams find ways to win."

Parker has missed four of the last six meetings with Phoenix, but has averaged 25.2 points in her last five games versus the Mercury.