PHOENIX — (AP) — Diana Taurasi scored 25 points and became the first player in WNBA history to score 9,000 career points in her return from a five-week absence as the Phoenix Mercury beat the Los Angeles Sparks 88-79 on Sunday.
Taurasi, the league’s all-time leading scorer, had been out with a fractured sternum. The 39-year old guard was fouled as she made a driving layup and converted the three-point play to reach the 9,000-point plateau. No other player in WNBA history has scored as many as 7,500 points and only Tina Thompson (7,488) and Tamika Catchings (7,380) have reached the 7,000-point mark.
Erica Wheeler made back-to-back baskets to cap a 7-0 run by the Sparks and tie it at 47-all early in the third quarter but Phoenix (7-7) scored 13 of the next 15 points to take the lead for good. Taurasi made two 3-pointers in the final minute of the period to push the Mercury’s lead to 14 points going into the fourth.
Wheeler led the Sparks (6-8) with 21 points and Te’a Cooper added 20. Cooper, who scored a career-high 26 points in Thursday’s win over the Washington Mystics, has back-to-back games of at least 20 points for the first time in her career. The guard, who played at Tennessee and South Carolina before finishing her college career at Baylor, was a second-round pick by Phoenix in the 2020 WNBA draft but was cut by the Mercury before signing with the Sparks prior to the beginning of the season.
It was the third consecutive game between the teams and their final regular matchup of the season