Minus Griner, Mercury dealt third straight loss
PHOENIX (AP) — Candace Parker had 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists to lead the Los Angeles Sparks to their fifth straight win, an 88-76 victory Sunday over the Phoenix Mercury.
Nneka Ogwumike added 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Sparks, who have beaten their last five opponents by an average of 18.6 points a game after a 5-4 start.
Phoenix (8-7) played its second straight game without No. 1 draft pick Brittney Griner, who has a sore left knee that was originally injured June 6.
Los Angeles took control early with a 13-point run in the first quarter, then held off Phoenix rallies in the second and third quarters.
Diana Taurasi had 23 points, including three 3-pointers, to lead the Mercury, who have lost three straight after winning five in a row.
Lindsey Harding added 15 points and five assists for the Sparks (10-4), the highest-scoring and sharpest-shooting team in the league, whose transition game led to 21 fast-break points on Sunday.
Ogwumike scored four points in a seven-point spurt midway through the third quarter that gave Los Angeles separation. The team had traded baskets to start the period, but Ogwumike’s layup made it 60-47.
Parker scored 14 first-half points to lead the Sparks to a 43-37 advantage at the break.
Taurasi quickly picked up two fouls in the first 3:10 of the game, and the Mercury missed 11 of their first 14 shots, trailing 20-13 after the first quarter.
The Mercury beat the Sparks 97-81 on June 14.