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Taurasi’s big shot not enough for Mercury to avoid playoff elimination

Los Angeles Sparks' Nneka Ogwumike (30) and Chelsea Gray (12) celebrate a win while Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi, left, Leilani Mitchell (5) and Brittney Griner, right, pause on the court as time expires in the second half of Game 3 of a WNBA basketball playoff semifinal Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Candace Parker’s driving layup with 2.9 seconds to play gave the Los Angeles Sparks an 89-87 win and three-game sweep of the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA semifinals Sunday.

Parker finished with 21 points and 11 assists.

Brittney Griner missed a shot as time expired and the Sparks celebrated with shouts and embraces in front of their bench.

Odyssey Sims scored 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Chelsea Gray added 14 points for the defending champion Sparks, who advanced to their second straight WNBA Finals and fifth overall. They will face Minnesota in a rematch of last year’s championship, after the Lynx completed a sweep of Washington earlier Sunday.

Diana Taurasi had tied the game at 87 with a 3-pointer from the wing with 10.8 seconds left.

After a timeout, Parker scored the go-ahead basket.

Taurasi’s 22 points led the Mercury while Griner added 18.

Leilani Mitchell’s steal and layup with 1:21 left brought the crowd to its feet and cut the Sparks’ lead to 85-82. Then Camille Little, who scored 18 points, stole an inbounds pass and drove for a layup to make the score 85-84 with 18.6 seconds to go.

Sims sank a pair of free throws with 14.1 seconds left before Taurasi’s shot tied it.

The Sparks trailed by as many as 11 points in the first quarter after Little’s 3 with 3:43 left, part of her 12 points in the opening 10 minutes.

The Mercury’s 30-21 lead in the second quarter disappeared with a pair of Parker steals, two free throws and a nifty assist to Sims for a layup, and Los Angeles took its largest lead of the half, 43-35, on Alana Beard’s jumper 36.3 seconds before halftime.

MERCURY FALLING

The Mercury’s top two players, Taurasi and Griner, combined to make only 3 of 19 shots in the first half as Phoenix scored only 13 second-quarter points.

Griner, at one point late in the third quarter, grabbed Parker in frustration for what she thought was a foul, and Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello was given technical. Taurasi was whistled for a technical seconds later.

NOT REALLY HER DAY

Ogwumike, the 2016 league MVP and the Sparks’ second-highest scorer in the series, was saddled with foul trouble early and finished with nine points and 12 rebounds.

TIP-INS

Phoenix Suns big man Alan Williams, who purchased 300 tickets for fans to attend the game, sat courtside with his family. … Suns guard Devin Booker also attended. … Parker ran over to the scorer’s table and screamed her disapproval at an officials’ decision after the final shot of the first half, but what was originally ruled a technical foul was overturned.

UP NEXT

Game of the WNBA Finals is next Sunday, when the Sparks will face Minnesota in Game 1.

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