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Sparks, Mercury meet with playoff positions at stake

Now that the Phoenix Mercury are in the WNBA playoffs after a recent funk, they are thinking about postseason positioning with three regular-season games remaining.

The Mercury (17-14), who are in seventh place, have a shot at climbing as high as No. 4, where the Los Angeles Sparks (18-12) are situated.

The Sparks, coming off a 79-73 loss at Atlanta on Thursday, travel to play the Mercury on Sunday. Phoenix had lost six of seven games before beating last-place Indiana 94-74 on Friday.

"It has been a long time coming and you know we have been playing better but not for 40 minutes and you know it's hard," said Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello, who notched her franchise-record 100th victory with the Mercury.

"We all hate to lose, but there is an opportunity for us to keep growing from this and you know like I said we have to stay even keel, we can't get too high and we can't get too low and I thought we did that tonight."

Diana Taurasi and Stephanie Talbot scored 14 points apiece to lead five Phoenix players in double figures and help the Mercury past the Fever, snapping a five-game home losing streak. DeWanna Bonner had 13 points and 10 rebounds, Brittney Griner added 12 and nine, and Yvonne Turner scored 10 points for Phoenix.

"We definitely needed (a win) at this point," Bonner said. "At this point, it is all about we know we are in the playoffs so now it is finding a rhythm so when we get there we will be rolling."

The Sparks appeared to be in a rhythm after inexplicably losing at home to Indiana on July 20. They won four of five games after that before the recent loss to the Dream. The Sparks' 4-2 record since losing to the Fever includes two losses to Atlanta.

Los Angeles holds a 2-0 edge over Phoenix, last beating the Mercury 78-75 on Aug. 5 at home.

Sparks coach Brian Agler's primary concern is keeping the team focused with a playoff spot already in hand.

"There's no question we have enough, as do some other teams," Agler said. "The situation now is what kind of mentality do you have. 'Are you going to get prepared mentally and physically for the games? Are you going to be able to finish games'?"

Whenever the Sparks face the Mercury, the frontcourt matchup of Los Angeles' Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike against Griner and Bonner is always a highlight.

Parker leads the Sparks with 18 points and eight rebounds per game and Ogwumike averages 15.6 and seven. Griner is averaging 20.5 points and 7.3 rebounds, and Bonner is at 16.5 and 6.8.
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