Winner take all as Mercury visit Sparks for Game 3
SEP 23, 2013 10:59a ET
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.