WNBA

Mercury-Sparks Preview

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Despite a terrific effort from Diana Taurasi, the Phoenix Mercury failed to knock off the defending WNBA champions in their season opener.

Taurasi looks to build on that performance as the Mercury visit the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday night.

Taurasi, who led the WNBA with 22.6 points per game last season, picked up where she left off in Saturday's 78-71 loss at Seattle, scoring 31 on 11-of-20 shooting.

"We did a pretty good job in certain areas on the court. As a collective group, we didn't finish plays here and there," Taurasi said.

"That's what it takes to beat teams on the road. At this level, it's whether you're mentally strong enough to execute as a group. We showed we can do it. Just have to try and do it for a longer period of time."

Phoenix took four of five but outscored Los Angeles by an average of 3.2 points last season, and Taurasi knows Friday's matchup won't be easy.

"LA's always a tough game ... it's always a game I think both teams look forward to," the California native said. "It's definitely fun to go back home, see my family and friends, it's always good to be back in LA."

The Sparks opened their season with a home-and-home series against Minnesota, winning 82-74 in Los Angeles last Friday thanks in part to 19 points and 10 rebounds from star Candace Parker. They fell 86-69 on the road Sunday while Parker was held to 11 and seven, respectively.

Parker, who averaged 24.0 points and 12.0 rebounds in three games against Phoenix in 2010, will likely need to be more consistent if Los Angeles hopes to contend this season. The Sparks' focus for Friday, however, remains largely on slowing down Taurasi.

"The thing you have to do to contain Diana Taurasi is not let her get the ball first off," forward DeLisha Milton-Jones said. "When she has the ball in her hands, she's a tremendous threat for any team. If she does get the ball, you have to try to make every shot she takes as tough as possible.

"The thing that makes her the most dangerous is the fact that she knows how to share the ball at the right time, so you don't know when she's gonna pass or shoot."

Taurasi, who averaged a career-best 4.7 assists last season, recorded one Saturday as the Mercury's reserves scored four points on 2-of-13 shooting.

"We gotta find a way to get some more production off the bench and some people gotta find themselves on the court and get going a little bit," Taurasi said.

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