Mercury rout Sparks for 14th straight victory
LOS ANGELES (AP) The Phoenix Mercury’s winning streak has evolved so that they don’t need Diana Taurasi, Candice Dupree or Brittney Griner to lead the way.
DeWanna Bonner took her turn with a season-high 22 points to lead the Mercury to their 14th straight victory, 93-73 over the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday night.
Taurasi and Griner each had 18 points and Dupree added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Mercury (20-3), four wins shy of the Sparks’ WNBA record of 18 straight wins in 2001.
Bonner recorded a season high in the first half with 20 points and finished with 22 on 7-for-9 shooting. It was the first time this season Bonner led Phoenix in scoring.
”We had a talk recently and I wanted her to be more aggressive on the offensive end,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. ”People talk about our big three, but we actually have a big five . it was good for her to get going. I just want her to be aggressive. She can put numbers on the board, so I just wanted her to get involved as much as she can.”
Bonner and Griner combined to shoot 15 for 18 from the field to help Phoenix shoot 54 percent overall and score 48 points in the paint. The Mercury will go for No. 15 on Saturday against the New York Liberty, but they maintain that it’s not on their mind.
”I think we worked hard for it,” Bonner said. ”Nothing came easy. But we don’t look ahead. We don’t look behind at what we did or what we’re doing.”
Nneka Ogwumike scored 23 points and Jantel Lavender had 16 for the Sparks (10-14), who lost their fifth straight home game and are 0-2 under new coach Penny Toler. Candace Parker returned from a strained knee and had 14 points and nine rebounds.
It was a big challenge for the Sparks, who played on Wednesday and fell into a deficit early. The Mercury set season highs for points in a first half (61) and first quarter (36).
The Sparks are in the middle of five games in seven days, and Toler said they have to stay positive.
”The things we’re doing are fixable,” Toler said. ”Now I need everybody to continue believe in what we’re doing. This is a tough one. These cats are hot. It’s tough to play them even when you’ve got days between, let alone on a back-to-back. And they were coming in fresh. It was the first half that killed us.”
Phoenix led by double digits from 25-15. Taurasi made a 3-pointer early in third quarter to give Phoenix its biggest lead at 64-38 before the Sparks went on a 23-9 run finished by Candice Wiggins’ 3-pointer to get to 73-61.
The Mercury’s Shay Murphy scored on a drive with the shot clock winding down on the next possession and the Sparks never got closer.
Ogwumike scored 19 points in the second half but that was the main Sparks highlight on a night when owner Magic Johnson was in attendance. Toler, the longtime general manager, was hired on Sunday and said she is getting a lot of input from assistant coaches and players to ease the transition.
”I’m actually proud of them because this is a lot of distractions that we have right now and that’s recognizing that even as GM,” Toler said. ”We’re trying to change some things and go forward, and it may take a minute. Obviously we want things to be instant, but it doesn’t work like that.”