Diana Taurasi scored 28 points and the Phoenix Mercury hit 14 3-pointers to hold off the Los Angeles Sparks 103-94 Wednesday night in Game 1 of the WNBA Western Conference finals.
Playing the fourth quarter with five fouls, Taurasi made 5 of her 6 free throws over the final 1:09 to win the game played at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on the court named for coach John Wooden and his wife Nell.
The Sparks were forced out of their downtown home arena because of a Britney Spears concert at Staples Center. Game 2 is Friday night in Phoenix.
Penny Taylor added 18 points, Cappie Pondexter 15 and Le'coe Willingham 12 for Phoenix.
Candace Parker led the Sparks with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Tina Thompson added 25 points and Lisa Leslie 19.
Magic Johnson, who won NBA titles with Sparks coach Michael Cooper on the Los Angeles Lakers, sat in the front row. Taurasi shook hands with Johnson as she walked back upcourt in the fourth.
The Mercury's 3-pointers eclipsed the nine they made against San Antonio on Saturday in the first round.
Phoenix earned its first-ever playoff victory over the Sparks in the teams' first postseason meeting since the first round in 2000. The Mercury dominated the teams' season series 3-1, losing only the regular season finale on Sept. 13 in a game Taurasi sat out.
The game was tied twice early in the fourth and the Sparks twice closed within two in the final 1:09. But they were forced to foul and Taurasi and Tangela Smith were solid at the line.
Thompson, Parker and Leslie controlled the Sparks' offense in the third quarter, when they outscored the Mercury 22-19.
Phoenix extended its lead to 69-61 late in the third on five straight points by Taylor.
Thompson was in the midst of her own 8-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer, and Noelle Quinn hit two free throws to get the Sparks within one. Ketia Swanier hit a 3-pointer to keep the Mercury ahead 72-68 heading into the final 10 minutes.
Phoenix led by 10 points early in the second quarter before the Sparks used a 20-10 run to tie the game at 44. Parker had 10 points in the spurt.
But the Mercury regained the lead with a 9-2 run to go into halftime ahead 53-46. Quinn, who played collegiately at UCLA, committed two turnovers and Leslie fouled Taurasi, who completed the three-point play.
The Mercury raced to a 19-8 lead to start the game, when the Sparks missed seven of their first 10 field goal attempts. They went more than 3 minutes without scoring while Phoenix ran off 12 consecutive points and shot 70 percent from the floor.
The Sparks regrouped and closed the quarter on an 11-7 run to trail 26-19.