Taurasi legacy cemented in a Defeat

The Sparks defense was fierce defense during the Phoenix Mercury vs Los Angeles Sparks game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Ca on June 18, 2017. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Full Image 360)

Los Angeles, CA – Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi drove down the lane passed Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike to cement her legacy as one of the WNBA’s all-time greats.

With a flick of her wrist, her lay-up at STAPLES Center on Sunday afternoon with 45 seconds left in the first half pushed her passed Tina Thompson to become the league’s all-time leading scorer, but it was the Sparks which had the last laugh with a dominate 90-59 win against the four-time Olympian and three-time league champion and the Mercury.

“When you start thinking about records in different sports, there’s certain numbers that create a lot of attention,” Taurasi said about her record-breaking performance. “I hope the next time this record gets broken – which it will – it’ll be a bigger deal, and I think that will be cool to sit back and watch the next person break it.”

The Sparks’ season-high 53-point first half was the dealbreaker for the rest of the game, spoiling the record-breaker’s afternoon in Los Angeles.

“I’m just sad for (Taurasi) that we didn’t put up a bit of an effort for this history-making game,” Phoenix Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello said. “Unfortunately we’re going to remember a game in which we got our butts kicked, but it is what it is. It doesn’t take away what Taurasi has achieved. She’s a special player.”

The all-time leading scorer also led the Mercury with a game-high, 19-point performance.

“Taurasi is a tremendous player, arguably the best player that’s ever played in the league,” Los Angeles Sparks head coach Brian Agler said about Taurasi’s performance. ”She’s a champion. Her teams have won in college, in this league, in Europe, (and) in the Olympics.”

Four Sparks players scored in double-figures with forward Nneka Ogwumike leading the way with 18 points, while forward Candace Parker wasn’t far behind with 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

The Sparks scored 15 straight points before the Mercury scored on its seventh shot of the quarter. Los Angeles could not miss in the opening 90 seconds, shooting 6-for-6, capping a 20-2 run in that timeframe. Parker scored 11 of her 13 first-quarter points in that span as the Sparks tallied a season-high 38 points in the quarter – the most the Suns have allowed all season.

As the Mercury settled down in the second quarter and started getting into a scoring groove, so did its storied veteran Taurasi, who added seven points in the frame to become the all-time leading scorer in the WNBA. The Mercury guard was the only Phoenix player to score double-digits in the first half as the Sparks went into the locker room with a 53-36 lead.

“It was really good to see a couple of things: one, getting off to a good start with our starters and then people coming off the bench contributing and not having a drop off.” Agler said.

The Mercury struggled again to get to the basket in the third quarter, going scoreless in the opening three minutes of the second half while the Sparks strengthened its lead to 20. Though Phoenix battled in the frame, L.A. were able to go toe-to-toe and maintain a lead, with center Jantel Lavender launching a buzzer-beater jumper to close out the third with a 24-point lead.

Sparks guard Riquna Williams sank three-consecutive three-pointers to start the final quarter with a comfortable 30-point lead and finish with 15 points.