In a game full of inconsistent refereeing and plenty of frustration from players and fans alike, the Los Angelos Sparks outlasted the Phoenix Mercury to win by twelve points with a final score of 88-76.
Team USA teammates Candace Parker and Diana Tarausi led their teams in scoring with 21 and 23 points respectively. Parker shot 52% from the field and added 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Tarausi shot 50% from the field, 37% from the 3-point line, and was a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line.
Despite Tarausi's efforts, the Mercury just couldn't get past the Sparks. DeWanna Bonner added 17 points on 7-16 shooting as well as 5 rebounds and 3 steals for the Mercury. Candice Dupree had 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists in 39 minutes of play. And for the second straight game, Penny Taylor scored in double figures with 10 points and dished out 3 assists as well. Taylor was out for the beginning of the season with an injury.
For the Sparks, Nneka Ogumike recorded her fourth double-double of the season with 16 points on 5-8 shooting and 13 rebounds. Lindsey Harding added 15 points and 5 assists as well. Kristi Toliver had a tough outing after her impressive shooting game in the win against Tulsa on Thursday. The league's 2012 most improved player scored just 9 points on 4-12 shooting and was 0-3 from beyond the arc.
The Sparks began the game on a 15-7 run before Mercury coach Corey Gaines called a timeout with 3:51 left in the first half. The Mercury came out of the timeout and scored six straight points, but the Sparks ended the first half ahead by seven points.
The second quarter was a back and forth battle. Phoenix won the quarter by a score of 24-23, but the Sparks went into halftime with a 43-37 lead. The Mercury battled coming out of the locker room in the third quarter. It wouldn't last long. The Sparks were able to get a 60-47 lead with 5:14 left in the quarter off of an Oguimike layup and never looked back.
"Any time you go on the road and beat a good team, that's a good day's work," said Sparks' head coach Carol Ross. "I really love how we won this because we didn't play great in all aspects but we were grinders and we stayed focused."
Superstar Tarausi accredited the loss to "Not executing on offense. 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 40 minutes, it just wasn't our day."
The Mercury were once again without number one overall pick, Brittney Griner, the 6-8 center that gives them a dominant presence inside. Lynetta Kizer, the 6-4, second year post out of Maryland, was also out with an injury leaving the Mercury shorthanded in the post against Parker.
The Mercury and Sparks have a rematch Thursday night in Los Angelos at 10PM. The game will be aired on ESPN 2. Before that however, the Sparks have a match up at home against the East leading Atlanta Dream. That game is on Tuesday night at 10:30PM and can be seen on WNBA Live Access.