Mercury Runs Down Sparks in Second Half


Finally, it seemed, a break in the pattern.

For a half Monday, the Sparks looked well on their way to their first two-game win streak--in a game against Western Conference rival Phoenix at that.

For a half.

After being outplayed by the Sparks (4-9) and trailing, 31-30, at the break, Phoenix went on an 18-5 run to open the second half, much to the delight of 13,071 at America West Arena.


The Mercury won it, 72-62, and at the finish, the only sounds in the Sparks’ locker room were the clinking of ice cubes being dumped into plastic bags to be taped around sore knees.

Not much in the trainer’s bag for sore spirits, though.

The Sparks have lost seven of their last nine, and their third straight to Phoenix, dating to last season.

Frustrated again, Coach Julie Rousseau seemed shocked at the speed of the game’s turnaround. The Mercury (10-3) went from trailing at halftime to a 52-38 lead in seven minutes.


“We played such a great first half . . . and all of a sudden we’re retreating,” Rousseau said. “I used one timeout early in their run--you don’t want to use them up. I wanted to stop the bleeding, get us refocused . . . “

Again, it was the usual suspects. Jennifer Gillom, the Mercury’s 34-year-old center, took advantage of Lisa Leslie being in foul trouble and scored a game-high 27 points--15 in the second half--plus nine rebounds in 36 minutes.

And Mercury guard Bridget Pettis, held scoreless by Tamecka Dixon in the first half, finished with nine, including six in the first seven minutes of the second half. Pettis started the second half with a layup, scored again a minute later on a fastbreak and made a three-pointer at 13:30 for a 45-36 lead.

At that point, the crowd was a factor, as Spark guard Penny Toler pointed out later. The Sparks complained about officials’ calls throughout the second half. Toler was still seething afterward.


“Phoenix has the best sixth man [the crowd] in the game, and when that crowd starts yelling, the whistles start blowin’,” she said.

Leslie, who played only 13 minutes after halftime, committed her third foul with 17:22 to play and, before Rousseau could get Sandra Van Embricqs in to replace her, the Sparks’ star forward was tagged with her fourth foul, 28 seconds later.

Los Angeles, which committed 22 turnovers, went two long stretches of scoring only free throws.

At the end, the closest they came was Dixon’s three-pointer with 1:33 left cut it to 65-60.


WNBA Notes

Sandy Brondello had 23 points and 10 rebounds as the Detroit Shock snapped a four-game losing streak with a 74-67 victory over the Starzz at Salt Lake City. Detroit (7-8) took advantage of Utah’s 15 turnovers, 10 missed free throws and three quick fouls on 7-foot-2 Starzz center Margo Dydek in the second half to rally from a 37-28 deficit. rebounds. Cynthia Cooper had 23 points and eight assists to lead host Houston over the Washington Mystics, 81-67, for the Comets’ WNBA-record ninth consecutive win.