PHOENIX (AP) - Candice Dupree had 22 points and a franchise-record 19 rebounds to help the Phoenix Mercury clinch a playoff spot with a 93-77 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday night.
Diana Taurasi added 24 points for the Mercury (18-13), who won for the third time in four games and remained a half-game behind second-place Seattle going into the final week of the season.
Taurasi was impressed by Dupree's play.
``She controlled the game today on both ends which is hard to do sometimes being a post player,' Taurasi said. ``She's just unbelievable Every game she plays she plays pretty well. I'm sure its fun for the fans to watch. It was fun for us to watch. That was probably one of the best games of the year for her.'
Mercury coach Corey Gaines agreed.
``She was a beast,' he said. ``She was going after every rebound. She missed a couple that were just out of her reach. She had some tip-ins and was grabbing with authority both with two hands and one hand.'
Candace Parker had a season-high 32 points for Los Angeles (13-18), which has lost three of four. Kristi Toliver had 23 points and DeLisha Milton-Jones added 13 points and eight rebounds.
The Sparks, two games behind fourth-place San Antonio, finish with three road games - starting with Tuesday night against the Silver Stars. Los Angeles then plays Tulsa on Friday and Chicago on Saturday.
``No telling what is going to happen,' Los Angeles coach Joe Bryant said. ``We have to play it out. That's what I told the women. Make sure to keep our heads up high. It's not over until it's over.'
Los Angeles, which trailed by eight after the third quarter, pulled to 80-75 with 4:34 remaining. However, Taurasi converted a pair of free throws and then hit a 3-pointer to help secure the win.
Phoenix, which outrebounded Los Angeles 46-27, made four of its last five shots and forced the Sparks into four turnovers while closing the game with a 13-2 run.
Penny Taylor returned after missing the Mercury's last two games due to back spasms, and had 14 points before going out 2 minutes into the second half.
Toliver made her first three 3-pointers, consecutively in the second quarter to erase a 30-23 deficit.
The Sparks jumped out to a 12-2 lead after Phoenix missed 10 of its first 12 shots.
``We were aggressive and we were getting stops, which was the main thing. We were able to build off of our defense,' Parker said. ``Then Diana got hot and obviously that stopped our run. She's a great player and that's what great players do is step up in those kind of moments. She did that in the beginning and she did that down the stretch as well.'
Phoenix hosts last-place Tulsa on Tuesday, travels to Seattle on Friday and finishes the season at home against first-place Minnesota on Sept. 11.
The Associated Press News Service
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