Series Preview: (2) L.A. Sparks vs. (3) Phoenix Mercury

By: Ashley Atwell, WNBA.com


The No. 2 seeded Sparks face the No. 3 seeded Mercury in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images



Which team will win the Conference Semifinal matchup between Los Angeles and Phoenix?
Which team will win the Conference Semifinal matchup between Los Angeles and Phoenix?
View Results

Game 1: Phoenix 86, Los Angeles 75
Game 2: Los Angeles 82, Phoenix 73
Game 3*: Phoenix 78, Los Angeles 77
* if necessary
Game 1: Phoenix 86, Los Angeles 75 RECAP | VIDEO
Game 2: Los Angeles 82, Phoenix 73 RECAP | VIDEO
Game 3: Phoenix 78, Los Angeles 77 RECAP | VIDEO

The No. 2 seeded Los Angeles Sparks are set to take on the No. 3 seeded Phoenix Mercury in a series that is sure to be competitive and feature two dynamic MVP candidates in forward/center Candace Parker of the Sparks and guard Diana Taurasi of the Mercury.

There is no doubt that these two players will have a large impact on the outcome of the playoffs series. Parker leads her team averaging 17.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists, while Taurasi leads the Mercury averaging 20.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists and ranks second in the league in scoring average and in assists--just 1.2 points behind Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry and .5 assists behind San Antonio's Danielle Robinson, respectively.

During the 2013 season, the teams broke even in the series at 2-2. In those four games, Taurasi averaged 24.3 ppg, with her highest mark coming from the game back on June 14 when she put up 34 points. Parker posted 19.3 ppg, scoring her series-best at 25 points when the two met on July 18.

The previous matchups paint the picture that this will be a sure to be an aggressive series. Both teams have top-notch supporting casts and played tight games during half of the series. Just to show the competitiveness between the teams, in the third-game the Mercury snapped the Sparks' 19-game regular-season home winning streak. While the Sparks have homecourt advantage, that advantage could easily be taken over by the Mercury. Overall, the Sparks are the second-highest scoring team in the league (just behind Minnesota) averaging 81.94 points per game, but Phoenix is just right behind them with an average of 79.71 points per game. The teams faced each other in the last regular-season game of the year, with the Sparks getting a huge 89-55 win, but both teams sat out their stars during most of the game.

Between two of the league's top all-stars and competitive matchups during the season, the supporting casts on both teams make it hard to say that either team will get a sure victory in this playoffs series. Rookie center Brittney Griner has overcome injury issues and managed to lead the league in blocks, while her offensive game is improving just as the playoffs approach. As for the Sparks, forward Nneka Ogwumike is second in the league for field-goal percentage at .566. Just behind Parker, Ogwumike, last year's Rookie of the Year, put up and average of 14.6 points-per-game and 7.6 rebounds.

With a back-and-forth regular-season series, it is hard to predict who will make it to the Conference Finals. Yes, Taurasi has had some high-scoring games in this series and the Mercury have pulled away by more points in the matchup, but with the depth on each roster it is hard to count out the higher-seeded Sparks. With under 400 miles between the two teams, this is sure to be a battle that will create excitement out West.



2013 Regular Season: Phoenix 2, Los Angeles 1

Friday, June 14, US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ: Mercury 97, Sparks 81 | Box Score | Highlights
Phoenix Leaders: Diana Taurasi (34 pts., 7 ast.), DeWanna Bonner (23 pts., 12 reb.)
Los Angeles Leaders: Kristi Toliver (18 pts., 3 reb.), Candace Parker (15 pts., 8 reb.)

Sunday, July 14, US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ: Sparks 88, Mercury 76 | Box Score | Highlights
Los Angeles Leaders: Candace Parker (21 pts., 8 reb.), Nneka Ogwumike (16 pts., 13 reb.)
Phoenix Leaders: Diana Taurasi (23 pts., 5 ast.), DeWanna Bonner (17 pts., 5 reb.)

Thursday, July 18, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA: Mercury 90, Sparks 84 | Box Score | Highlights
Phoenix Leaders: Diana Taurasi (32 pts., 7 reb.), DeWanna Bonner (17 pts., 11 reb.)
Los Angeles Leaders: Candace Parker (25 pts., 16 reb.), Kristi Toliver (16 pts., 5 reb.)

Sunday, September 15, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA: Sparks 89, Mercury 55 | Box Score | Highlights
Los Angeles Leaders: Jantel Lavender (16 pts., 9 reb.), Candace Parker (16pts., 4 reb.)
Phoenix Leaders: Brittney Griner (9 pts., 7 reb.), Jasmine James (9 pts., 4 ast.)



See how the teams match up position by position (regular-season stats)

Kristi Toliver, G, Sparks
14.1 PPG, 2.60 RPG, 3.4 APG
Diana Taurasi, G, Mercury
20.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 6.2 APG
Lindsey Harding, G, Mercury
10.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 5.2 APG
DeWanna Bonner, G/F, Mercury
14.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.4 APG
Candace Parker, F/C, Sparks
17.9 PPG, 8.70 RPG, 3.8 APG
Candice Dupree, F, Mercury
15.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.9 APG
Nneka Ogwumike, F, Sparks
14.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.3 APG
Penny Taylor, F, Mercury
8.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.7 APG
Jantel Lavender, C, Sparks
7.2 PPG, 4.50 RPG, .5 APG
Brittney Griner, C, Mercury
12.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.0 APG
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