PHOENIX(AP)Six games into her tenure with the Phoenix Mercury, Tameka Johnson has their run-and-gun style figured out.
Their opponents are having a hard time dealing with it.
Johnson scored 18 points and Cappie Pondexter had 21 as the Mercury defeated the Los Angeles Sparks 89-80 on Friday night.
"We play really quick, but we ain't in a hurry,'' Johnson said. "We know where everyone is and 90 percent of our opponents don't. We are under control and trying to see who can hang with us.''
The Mercury improved to 5-1.
Johnson, who was dealt from L.A. in the offseason as part of sign-and-trade deal, did a good portion of the fourth-quarter damage against her former teammates. The point guard had 10 of her 18 points in the final 10 minutes.
"Nobody believes it, but I promise it wasn't (a big deal),'' Johnson said of facing her former team. "Once I left L.A. my time in L.A. was up.''
The combination of Johnson and Pondexter was the difference in the fourth quarter as the Mercury used a 13-2 run at the 2:20 mark to break open a 78-75 lead for a 12-point advantage, 89-77, with 28.7 seconds remaining.
Pondexter scored six straight points to get the scoring binge started
"We had about three easy looks at the basket in which they came over the top and blocked,'' Sparks coach Michael Cooper said. "We were not concentrating enough or not tough enough. When they're making those runs you have got to score and we weren't able to score.''
Pondexter finished with six rebounds and four assists. Diana Taurasi, the league's leading scorer, scored 17 points for Phoenix.
Betty Lennox led the Sparks with 16 points and DeLisha Milton-Jones added 15 and eight rebounds. Tina Thompson added nine points and 14 rebounds.
The Sparks, already without Candace Parker (maternity leave), lost center Lisa Leslie to a right hip bruise with 1:33 remaining in the first quarter and she never returned. Cooper said she is listed as day-to-day.
The Sparks were able to set the pace early by controlling the boards and limiting the Phoenix penchant to push the ball up the floor.
Los Angeles finished with a 48-29 rebounding edge.
"It hurt us two ways,'' Mercury coach Corey Gaines said. "We can't push the ball up the court because we have to take the ball from out of bounds so now the game slows down. It also deflates our run when they score on a put back.''
The Mercury got through it, erasing an eight-point deficit, and tied it at 43 at halftime.
"We did it in spurts, but we didn't get some of the stops we wanted to get,'' Taurasi said. "To win a game like this is important for us to just grind it out.''