PHOENIX – Diana Taurasi and Candice Dupree scored 20 points each, helping the Phoenix Mercury rally past a scary injury to guard Ketia Swanier to beat the Los Angeles Sparks 101-82 Tuesday night.
Phoenix opened the third quarter with a big run and kept it going after Swanier was helped off the court following an elbow to the head by Sparks guard Kristi Toliver. The Mercury turned a 10-point deficit into a 14-point lead in the quarter and never let up on the way to their sixth win in seven games.
Penny Taylor had 16 points and Kara Braxton added 14 for Phoenix.
Ebony Hoffman had 21 points and LaToya Pringle 12 for Los Angeles in its second game without former league MVP Candace Parker. The Sparks fell to 0-5 on the road this season.
Swanier went down in a heap late in the third quarter after taking an elbow to the left eye from Toliver, who swung her arm while trying to protect the ball. Swanier lay on the floor for several minutes while writhing in pain, then had to be helped to the locker room.
Toliver was hit with a flagrant foul after initially being called for an offensive foul, and Sparks assistant Joe Bryant exacerbated the situation by arguing the call and was hit with a technical. Toliver also was called for a technical foul on another call a few minutes later.
DeWanna Bonner hit two free throws in place of Swanier, Taurasi added another for Bryant's technical and the Mercury kept pouring it on, leading 79-65 after a 37-point third quarter.
The outcome wasn't much of a surprise the way Los Angeles has been playing on the road. The Sparks came into Tuesday's game with four straight away-from-LA losses, the latest a three-point setback at Connecticut last Tuesday.
It didn't figure to get any easier against the Mercury without Parker, who's expected to miss at least five weeks after tearing cartilage in her right knee against New York on June 26. Los Angeles had trouble inside without Parker against the Sun, allowing Tina Charles to score 22 points and grab 23 rebounds, one short of the league record.
The Sparks did beat Phoenix with Parker in the lineup on June 10, holding Taurasi to nine points in a 14-point win in Los Angeles, but were facing a different Mercury team from the first time around.
The league's highest-scoring team for the fifth straight season, Phoenix followed a loss to San Antonio on June 17 by winning five of six, the latest by 13 over Chicago on Friday after hitting a franchise record 42 free throws while rallying from a 15-point deficit.
Los Angeles looked plenty rested in the first half after a week off, running its offense smoothly to set up good looks and earn trips to the free-throw line — hitting 13 of 14 — while limiting Phoenix's chances on the break. Led by Hoffman's 13 points and seven rebounds, the Sparks hit 16 of 32 shots, including five 3-pointers, to lead 50-42 at the half.
The Mercury trimmed the deficit quickly in the third quarter behind their defense, getting 14 combined points from Taylor and Dupree to go up 65-63 with just over 3 minutes left. Swanier got hurt right after that and Phoenix seemed to play even harder, never giving Los Angeles a chance.