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Sparks-Mercury Preview

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Brittney Griner may be getting most of the attention this season, but veteran Diana Taurasi continues to remind people that there's more to the Phoenix Mercury than the rookie phenom.

Taurasi may have to step up again if a left knee sprain keeps Griner out for a second consecutive game as short-handed Phoenix hosts the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday night.

Griner averaged 16.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks over her first three games - all losses. She was scratched just before tipoff Saturday, but Taurasi scored 26 points and added five assists to lead Phoenix (1-3) to an 82-67 victory over defending champion Indiana.

DeWanna Bonner added 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Mercury, who shot 47.7 percent.

''It was difficult not playing with (Griner) because we're used to playing with her,'' said Taurasi, averaging a team-best 18.8 points. ''But it gave a good opportunity for other people to step up. We're going to need everybody.''

Griner, who injured her knee last Thursday, did not indicate in her blog written for the team's official website whether or not she will be in uniform against Los Angeles. Coach Corey Gaines, though, is more than confident with Taurasi leading the way as she has in the past.

"She's the star," Gaines said.

While Griner's status is up in the air, Candice Dupree definitely won't be playing. The league on Friday announced that Dupree, who's averaging 11.8 points, would be suspended one game for making contact with an official in the win over the Fever.

With Dupree and potentially Griner out, the Mercury may have a tough time with a Los Angeles team that swept the five-game season series last year. Taurasi missed the final four meetings while dealing with a strained left hip flexor.

The Sparks (2-1) are coming off a 76-69 overtime win over Tulsa on Saturday, as Kristi Toliver scored 21 points and Candace Parker finished with 17 and 13 rebounds.

Lindsey Harding added 20 points and helped her team force 21 turnovers.

''We felt that we rely too much on our offense sometimes with the talent that we have, so we need to put it on defense," Harding said. "Our chant out of the huddle was `Defense.'"

The club shined on the other end of the floor against the Mercury last season, though, averaging 94.6 points in the five games. Parker played in four and averaged 24.5 points and 11.5 boards.

She had 26 points and 11 rebounds in a 101-76 victory in the most recent matchup Sept. 18. Teammate Alana Beard, who had 22 points in the contest, is uncertain to play Friday.

Beard returned Saturday after missing an 83-78 loss to San Antonio on June 1 due to a hamstring injury, but sat out the second half and overtime.



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