Sparks ousted from playoffs

Associated Press

Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury are heading to the WNBA finals, and Lisa Leslie is heading off to retirement.

Taurasi scored 15 of her 21 points in the second half and added seven rebounds and three assists to lead the Mercury past the Sparks, 85-74, on Saturday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.

The Mercury, seeded No. 1 in the West, will open the best-of-five WNBA finals at home Tuesday against Indiana, top-seeded in the East and a 72-67 winner over Detroit earlier Saturday.

Leslie, who reiterated on Friday that she would retire at the end of the season, had 22 points and nine rebounds before fouling out with 1:39 left.


Candace Parker, who averaged 26 points in the first two games, was held to six points before fouling out with 3:09 left. She added nine rebounds.

Cappie Pondexter and Penny Taylor each scored 12 points for the Mercury, which led by as much as 22 in the first half. It will have home-court advantage in the finals.

Phoenix and Indiana split their two games during the season, each winning on the other team’s home court.

Parker didn’t make a basket until an inside shot with 3:55 left in the first half after she got her third foul less than a minute into the second quarter. However, by halftime, one of the fouls was found to be inadvertently assigned to Parker. She was just two for six from the field and two for four from the free-throw line.

The Sparks got to within 13 early in the third quarter, but the Mercury opened a 57-36 lead after Sparks Coach Michael Cooper was given a technical foul for arguing a call with 3:43 left in the third. However, Tina Thompson had a three-point play and a three-point shot to key a 12-4 run to end the period and get the Sparks to within 61-48 going into the fourth quarter.

Phoenix answered with a 9-4 run to start the fourth and then never led by fewer than 14.

LeCoe Willingham added 17 points and six rebounds for the Mercury. Thompson had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Sparks, and Betty Lennox added 19 points.