LOS ANGELES (AP) - Candace Parker scored 22 points, Tina Thompson had 21 and the Los Angeles Sparks beat the Phoenix Mercury 98-84 on Friday night.
DeLisha Milton-Jones scored 18 points and reserve guard Kristi Toliver added 17 for the Sparks (2-1). Milton-Jones had 14 points in the first quarter, Parker had 15 in the second half and Toliver made five 3-pointers.
Penny Taylor led Phoenix (0-2) with 18 points. Mercury star and 2009 MVP Diana Taurasi was held scoreless in the second half and finished with nine points on 2-for-9 shooting.
The Sparks went on a 14-7 run to end the first half as Toliver hit three key 3s in the final 3 1/2 minutes. Los Angeles led 54-40 at the break and Phoenix didn't get closer than nine in the second half.
It was a contrast from the teams' recent history as three of their previous five meetings were decided by one point. Phoenix won four of five from Los Angeles last season.
The Sparks were 13 for 23 on 3-pointers, making the second-most in franchise history.
Los Angeles' 54 first-half points was one shy of the franchise record for a half. The Sparks have scored 54 points in a half three other times.
Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom said her team re-focused after a 17-point loss to Minnesota on Sunday.
``We needed that (victory) because I thought we had good practices this week,' Gillom said. ``We came out with a lot of energy. That was key tonight. Our last game, we didn't show that. We played some great defense. We held Diana Taurasi to nine points. That's hard to do.'
Taurasi went 0 for 5 from the field in the second half and drew a technical foul in the closing minutes.
``We were just trying to keep her frustrated,' Toliver said. ``We were throwing different looks at her. We've got a lot of big bodies on this team, so were able to switch and keep big people on her at times, really keep her off the glass. That was definitely a major contributor of why the game turned out the way it did.'
Parker, the 2008 MVP and Rookie of the Year, started slow and had seven points on 2-for-7 shooting in the first 20 minutes. She made a baseline jumper to stretch the lead to 60-45 in the third quarter and scored on a drive to the basket to push it to 69-56.
``We were a little sluggish,' Parker said. ``In the second half, I knew I just needed to relax.'
Parker drew the biggest cheer of the night with a block on Marie Ferdinand-Harris' shot with 7:01 remaining.
If there was any downside to the victory, it was that Parker - who's season ended last year after just 10 games due to a shoulder injury - played more than 37 minutes for the second time in the team's opening three games.
``I think once the games get a little closer, I don't think that's necessarily going to be the plan,' she said. ``I'll do whatever the coach wants me to do, but I don't see being able to sustain this.'
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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