PHOENIX (AP) — Diana Taurasi scored 34 points, DeWanna Bonner had 23 points and 12 rebounds, and the Phoenix Mercury pulled away in the second half for a 97-81 win over the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday night.
Coming off its first win of the season, Phoenix raced past the Sparks in the second half without forward Candice Dupree (suspension) or much help from rookie center Brittney Griner.
The Mercury played well without the two star players, using big runs in the third and fourth quarters to end a five-game losing streak to Los Angeles.
Charde Houston had 15 points and Griner finished with 10 points and four blocked shots in 15 minutes after missing the previous game with a sprained left knee.
Kristi Toliver scored 18 points, Candace Parker added 15 and Nneke Ogwumike had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Los Angeles, which played without Alana Beard because of a sore hamstring.
The Mercury struggled to get in a groove with Griner early in the season, losing their first three games as they tried to find ways to get the ball into their 6-foot-8 center.
With Griner out last Saturday due to a sprained knee, Phoenix reverted to its run-and-gun style against Indiana and beat the defending WNBA champions by 15 behind Taurasi’s 26 points.
Seeing the success his team had with playing fast, Phoenix coach Corey Gaines decided to stick with the up-tempo style, even with Griner back in the starting lineup.
The Mercury did run, too, putting up shots as soon as they got an open look, rarely working the shot clock down.
They had to do it without much help from Griner, though.
She opened with a bucket inside and blocked a shot, then sat down after three minutes. Griner started the second quarter and quickly went back to the bench, finishing the first half with four points and two blocks in 5:39.
Taurasi made up for her absence, scoring 15 points, while Bonner added 12.
Problem for the Mercury was that the Sparks were able to keep up by taking advantage of Griner’s absence.
Slashing into the lane and snaring offensive rebounds without much resistance, Los Angeles led 50-48 at halftime. Ogwumike and Parker had 11 points each, Toliver had 10 and the Sparks scored 12 second-chance points in the half.
Phoenix started to pull away in third quarter behind its defense.
Hounding the Sparks even after Griner went back to the bench, the Mercury pressured the Sparks into difficult shots and turnovers. Phoenix was making shots at the other end as well, using an 11-2 run to build a 74-64 lead after three quarters.
The Mercury poured it on to open the fourth quarter, with Taurasi and Houston hitting 3-pointers during a 9-2 run that put them up 83-69 and the game out of reach.