Mon, 02 Aug 2021

Awaiting Diana Taurasi's return, Mercury face Sparks again

Field Level Media
18 Jun 2021, 04:55 GMT+10

The Phoenix Mercury can't get Diana Taurasi back soon enough.

But they have to play one more game without the WNBA's all-time leading scorer when they visit the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday.

The Mercury (5-7) have lost four straight games and are 3-5 without Taurasi, who has a sternum fracture. She is expected to return June 27 when the host Mercury and the Sparks complete a stretch of three straight head-to-head meetings.

That series began Wednesday when the host Sparks prevailed 85-80. Phoenix forward Sophie Cunningham made her first start of the season and scored a season-high 16 points to go along with Brittney Griner's season-high 30 points and 10 rebounds and Skylar Diggins-Smith's 15 points and 10 assists.

"(Cunningham) gave us the energy we needed," Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. "We still need more scorers than (Diggins-Smith and Griner)."

The Mercury have lost five games by eight or fewer points.

"We're close," Brondello said. "We're right there. We've just got to keep working."

The Sparks improved to 5-5 despite playing without injured posts Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike and Te'a Cooper, who served a one-game suspension Wednesday.

Erica Wheeler led five Sparks in double figures with 18 points and she added a season-high 10 assists for her first double-double.

"This is only the beginning for (Wheeler)," Sparks coach Derek Fisher said. "She's really committed to figuring out how to run a team, how to do what she did tonight. It's not an easy job. But this is really literally only the beginning of what Erica's capable of doing."

L.A. led by two points at the end of the third quarter and held off the Mercury as Wheeler scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a jumper over Griner that produced a five-point lead with eight seconds left.

"I'm a person and a player that likes pressure," Wheeler said. "I like to be in situations that bring pressure. That's my life."

--Field Level Media

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