LOS ANGELES (AP) - Kara Braxton scored 16 points and Penny Taylor had 15 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Phoenix Mercury to a 90-84 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday night.
Diana Taurasi and Candice Dupree each added 15 points and Dupree grabbed 11 rebounds for the Mercury (15-17), who broke a four-game losing streak and secured second place in the Western Conference.
``We just came out hard,' said Braxton, whom the Mercury acquired from Tulsa on July 23. ``We had a goal and that was just to play hard and play together.'
Tina Thompson scored a season-high 33 points for the Sparks (12-20), who remain tied with Minnesota and San Antonio for third place. The top four teams qualify for the playoffs.
``We've played 32 games in order to get to this point,' Thompson said of contending for the playoffs. ``That's what you play all season for. You don't play all those games to get to this point and then be mentally or physically fatigued.'
The Sparks, who trailed by 16 points in the second quarter, rallied to take a 63-62 lead with 1:20 left in the third quarter. But Braxton and Dupree made layups to give the Mercury a 66-63 advantage after three periods.
``They got way too many points in the paint,' Thompson said, ``and they got a lot of transition buckets.'
Braxton attributed her team's recovery to renewed intensity.
``Sometimes, we put our heads down (when behind),' Braxton said. ``But we had to keep it up, keep pushing, keep pushing and never let up.'
Los Angeles drew within 84-82 with 1:02 to play. But after Taylor made two free throws, Dupree made the pivotal play of the game with 29 seconds remaining.
She blocked Marie Ferdinand-Harris' jump shot, grabbed the rebound, got fouled and converted both free throws to give Phoenix an 87-82 lead with 28.5 seconds left.
``We really rebounded well, I thought,' Taylor said. ``We went into a defense where we could all switch, and we had a bigger lineup out there that really helped with rebounds and being able to switch.'
Ferdinand-Harris added a season-best 21 points, DeLisha Milton-Jones scored 16 points and Ticha Penicheiro had 11 assists and nine rebounds for Los Angeles.
The Associated Press News Service
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