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Candace Parker leads Sparks over Mercury

The forward has 24 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots in the regular-season finale.

September 14, 2009|Associated Press

PHOENIX — Candace Parker scored 24 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked three shots to lead the Sparks past the Phoenix Mercury, 81-78, Sunday in the regular-season finale for both playoff-bound teams.

Tina Thompson had 16 points for the Sparks, while Temeka Johnson scored 14 and Cappie Pondexter added 13 for the Mercury, which sat league-leading scorer Diana Taurasi in the postseason tuneup.

The Sparks (18-16) open the postseason at home Wednesday against Seattle (20-14). The Mercury, which has home-court advantage throughout the playoffs with the league's best record at 23-11, heads to San Antonio on Thursday for the first of a best-of-three playoff series.

Marie Ferdinand-Harris gave the Sparks the lead on a reverse layup with 1:26 left. Thompson added a three-point play with 43.5 seconds remaining to put the Sparks up 80-76.

Phoenix held the Sparks to a 24-second shot clock violation with 6.8 seconds left, but Ferdinand-Harris knocked the ball away on the ensuing inbounds play. Kelly Mazzante missed a long three-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied it.

Parker had her league-leading 15th double-double this season despite missing the first eight games of the year after giving birth to her first child in the off-season. Three-time MVP Lisa Leslie had two points in 16 minutes in the last regular-season game of her career.

Phoenix used a 17-4 run to start the second quarter to get control, taking a 40-33 lead at halftime.

The Mercury finished the season averaging 92.8 points a game, having broken the league record for most points in a season in the third quarter of its penultimate game against Seattle.

Phoenix matched its franchise mark for wins in a season set during its WNBA-title run season two years ago.

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