PHOENIX(AP) Playing against reserves, the Los Angeles Sparks got some momentum heading into the playoffs.
Candace Parker scored 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Sparks past the Phoenix Mercury 81-78 on Sunday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
"We hadn't beaten this team, so no matter who they put out on the floor, we wanted to go into the playoffs with a victory,'' Parker said. "We're on the other side of the bracket, but obviously we could see them in the Western Conference finals, so it was good to end the season with a victory.''
The Mercury sat Diana Taurasi, their best player, and kept their starters on the bench at the end.
"I think it was a good thing,'' guard Temeka Johnson said of the Mercury's reserves being on the court in the final minutes. "It gives a lot of people a lot more motivation and become more comfortable in certain situations. You never know we could being seeing each other pretty soon if both of us keep winning.''
The Sparks (18-16) open the postseason at home Wednesday against Seattle (20-14). The Mercury, who have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs with the league's best record at 23-11, head to San Antonio on Thursday for the first of their best-of-three playoff series.
Johnson had 14 points and Cappie Pondexter added 13 for the Mercury.
"They were a little short-handed, but the last three times they played us we were short-handed so I'm not feeling sorry for them in that respect,'' Sparks coach Michael Cooper said. "We put up a good battle for it being the last game of the season with really nothing to play for other than we want to keep going with what we had, this is our third (straight) win now. It's nice to go into the playoffs on a winning note.''
Marie Ferdinand-Harris gave Los Angeles the lead on a baseline drive reverse layup with 1:26 left and Tina Thompson added a three-point play with 43.5 seconds remaining to put the Sparks up 80-76.
After cutting the lead to 80-78, Phoenix held the Sparks to a 24-second shot clock violation with 6.8 seconds left but Ferdinand-Harris knocked the ball away on the ensuing in-bounds play. Kelly Mazzante missed a long-3-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied it.
"Basically, I was trying to do exactly what I did, get a deflection to not let them in bound,'' Ferdinand-Harris said. "I knew they have a lot of threats and anybody on the court is able to shoot a 3.''
Parker had her league-leading 15th double-double this season despite missing the first eight games of the year after giving birth to her first child in the offseason. Three-time MVP Lisa Leslie had just two points in 16 minutes in the last regular-season game of her career.
Phoenix used a 17-4 run to start the second quarter to get control, taking a 40-33 lead at halftime.
The Mercury finished the season averaging 92.8 points a game, having broken the league record for most points in a season in the third quarter of their penultimate game against Seattle.
Phoenix matched its franchise mark for wins in a season set during its WNBA-title run season two years ago.
The Mercury had won the previous three meetings with Los Angeles by at least eight points.
Taurasi was given the day off and had already all but clinched the league's scoring title.
"I just think that she needed it,'' Mercury coach Corey Gaines said of Taurasi. "She needed a rest, I think, because there's really no time between (now and the playoffs), so I think she needed it.''