Winner take all as Mercury visit Sparks for Game 3

The Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury
each got a stellar performance from their top player to win on the road
in their Western Conference semifinal series.

Los Angeles’ ball movement was the difference in Game 2, though, as Phoenix’s offense remained stagnant.

Candace Parker will be looking for the same well-rounded effort from the Sparks
as they try to eliminate Diana Taurasi and the visiting Mercury in the
decisive third game Monday night.

Taurasi
scored 30 points as Phoenix earned a surprising 86-75 win in Los Angeles
in Game 1, but Parker, named the WNBA MVP for the second time Thursday,
responded with 31 points and 11 rebounds in an 82-73 victory Saturday.

Parker attributed the Sparks’ success to getting everyone in the
seven-player rotation involved. Nneka Ogwumike had 15 points and 11
rebounds, Lindsey Harding finished with 13 points and Alana Beard added
12.

“If we don’t move the ball and if we
don’t make quick decisions, then we play right into Phoenix’s hands,”
Parker said. “I think we just made more of a concerted effort to move
the ball, make hard cuts and at least stay active, because there was a
lot of standing (in Game 1) in L.A.”

That’s precisely what got the Mercury in trouble in Game 2. Brittney
Griner scored 18 points and DeWanna Bonner had 16, but no other player scored more than seven.

Phoenix committed 12 of its 17 turnovers in the first half after totaling 10 in Game 1.

“The ball got stuck a lot in my hands, in (Bonner’s) hands,” Taurasi
said. “There wasn’t enough movement, we didn’t create enough for each
other and when the game gets hard and the pressure is on you really rely
on each other to get open and get good shots. We didn’t do that.”

Sparks coach Carol Ross said her team made it a point to keep
Taurasi from having the type of performance she had in Game 1, and
they’ll be looking for more of the same Monday.

“These are two pretty evenly matched teams, like two old heavyweight
fighters slugging it out,” Ross said. “We just tried to emphasize the
things that we do well and try to keep Taurasi from taking over.”

Mercury coach Russ Pennell wants his club to recapture the attitude that helped it steal the opener.

“I just thought that they had a little bit more energy early on and
played a little bit more desperate than we did,” Pennell said.
“Sometimes you win a game like we did on the road, even at this level,
people’s natural tendency is maybe to have a little bit of complacency. I
didn’t really sense that in our team, but I know that Los Angeles had to
win (Saturday). I thought we let them get away from us early.”

The Mercury won the last playoff series between these teams, beating the Sparks in three games in the 2009 conference finals.