Mercury, Sparks Face Deciding Game 3

By Ben York,
Posted: September 21, 2013

Over 11,000 fans flooded US Airways Center Saturday night to support the Mercury in their quest to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

But nobody said it was going to be easy.

Behind 31 points and 11 rebounds from Candace Parker, the Los Angeles Sparks evened the best-of-three series, 1-1, and forced a decisive Game 3 on Monday at Staples Center in an 82-73 victory over the Mercury Saturday night.

Diana Taurasi followed up her 30-point performance in Game 1 with 20 tonight. Brittney Griner scored 18 points and Candice Dupree added 16.

“Obviously, Los Angeles shot the ball a little bit better,” said Russ Pennell after the game. “We shot it not quite as good. I just thought that they had a little bit more energy early on and played a little bit more desperate than we did. That was one of my big concerns coming in to this game. Sometimes you win a game like we did on the road, even at this level people’s natural tendency is maybe to have a little bit of complacency. I didn’t really sense that in our team, but I know that Los Angeles had to win this game. So I thought we let them get away from us early.

“I thought that second half we played hard and made a little bit of a run. But you can’t spot someone 14 points and think you are going to have a great chance to come back.”

Leading by 13 points in the fourth quarter, Phoenix continued to chip away at the Sparks’ lead. Phoenix pulled to within five points, 76-71, with 34 seconds remaining but Los Angeles never let it get any closer.

“I thought the ball wound up in one person’s hands too long," Pennell added. "The shot clock is so short if you hang on it too long, you are going to wind up taking a marginal shot. And I think tonight we took a lot of marginal shots and we need to get that corrected before Monday, for sure. There were a couple of times we rebound the basketball and had people running off toward the other end and the ball went right behind them. We just didn’t have a real awareness. We did some things that were not really characteristic I think of this team. I don’t know if that’s what you say trying to hard, you could say complacency, you could say tired.

“Those are all excuses. Bottom line is we just didn’t get it done and we have to try to correct it before we play again.”

The Mercury is 6-2 all-time in series-deciding games (single elimination, Game 3 in a best-of-three, Game 5 in a best-of-five). In the Sparks win, the road team in the WNBA playoffs improved to 5-1 in 2013. The Minnesota Lynx are the lone WNBA home team to win a game.

“We’ve played each other five times now," said Diana Taurasi on Game 3. "We run the same plays. They run the same plays. It’s whichever team is a little bit more focused and in it for longer stretches of the game and today we didn’t get enough. I am proud of how we fought back. There was a point in the fourth where couple of possessions and we were back in it.

“We will be okay when we go back to LA on Monday.”