Sparks-Mercury Preview

The Associated Press

Brittney Griner likely is hoping her upcoming appearance on a nationally televised talk show won't have to include discussing her bothersome left knee and a three-game losing streak for the Phoenix Mercury.

She's a game-time decision Sunday as the host Mercury look to end the Los Angeles Sparks' four-game winning streak.

Griner will be sporting a bow tie while a guest on the "Conan" show on Monday night, though she's in the dark on what will transpire during her segment.

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Phoenix (8-6), which has dropped two straight, also isn't sure if the rookie will be healthy enough to play after being a late scratch with a sprained left knee for Wednesday's 88-80 loss to San Antonio.

The Silver Stars took advantage of Griner's absence and scored 44 points in the paint.

"That is entirely too much,'' coach Corey Gaines said. "We couldn't get any stops. It wasn't just one person; it was the whole team."

The Mercury have committed 41 turnovers over their last two games after winning seven of their previous eight.

"We just have to get back in the gym and work," said guard Diana Taurasi, who averages a league-leading 21.4 points. "If you want to talk winning games then we have to go back into the gym and work, get better, and be prepared. We need to scout better and implement that."

Phoenix will be planning for two games, as it will visit Los Angeles on Thursday. The Mercury won the first meeting 97-81 on June 14 at home, as Taurasi scored a season-best 34 points and DeWanna Bonner added 23.

That defeat was part of the Sparks' 0-4 start on the road, which came to an end with Thursday's 94-78 win at Tulsa. Candace Parker scored a season-high 30 points and Kristi Toliver added 25 for Los Angeles (9-4), which shot 54.9 percent and has won by an average of 20.3 points during its winning streak.

"It's important to play well early when you want to win on the road,'' said Parker, who hit 14 of 20 from the field. "We got in front early and put our foot on the gas. We rebounded much better and knocked down a lot of shots.''

The Sparks became the last WNBA team to win a road game.

"When you go on the road, you have to feel good early and we hadn't had much confidence early in our previous road games,'' coach Carol Ross said. "We came out and got some early steals and used that to generate some offense.''

Parker was held to 15 points in the first meeting with Phoenix, though she may be in for a more productive performance if Griner isn't there to keep her out of the paint.

The Mercury may also need to look elsewhere for another scoring threat.

"Somebody has to get us going, so if I have to be the one then I have no problem with that," said Candice Dupree, who scored 22 points Wednesday. "We have to start off aggressive and finish aggressive."

Phoenix's win over Los Angeles last month ended a four-game skid in the series.

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