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Sports

Sparks show strength in their numbers

Enough was enough.

The Sparks sang the blues far too many times last year, losing to the Phoenix Mercury four times, twice by one point.

Instead of morosely swaying to the tune of “One Is the Loneliest Number,” the Sparks were all smiles, winning by a comfortable margin, 98-84, over the Mercury on Friday at Staples Center.

The Sparks remained in control throughout the second half, their lead never falling below nine, in a team effort that left them two three-pointers shy of tying their franchise record of 15.

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“When we share the ball, it’s going to be hard to lose,” Sparks Coach Jennifer Gillom said.

First there was Candace Parker, who led all scorers with 22 points even though she was recovering from a loving brotherly knock. She recently scratched the garage door with her car, leading her brother, Marcus, to tweet Thursday, “Apparently @Candace_Parker drives to the basket better than she drives into the garage. Lol.”

Boy does she ever.

With just over seven minutes remaining, Parker blocked a layup by former Sparks guard Marie Ferdinand-Harris, sending the ball flying. The next possession, she converted a three-point play after being fouled on an inside jump shot.

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Then there was Tina Thompson, who sat in the locker room before the game, applying Tiger Balm to the nagging aches on her body. She scored 21 points.

There was also Kristi Toliver, who came off the bench to score 17 points. And there was no ignoring DeLisha Milton-Jones, who had 18 points.

“On any given night, anyone can step up,” Parker said.

Their defense was sharp too. The Sparks limited Diana Taurasi, who had 31 points in the Mercury’s season opener, to nine points. The Sparks are now 2-1, a far cry from last year’s 1-6 start.

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“It’s a different team,” smiled Gillom.

melissa.rohlin@latimes.com


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