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Sparks-Mercury Preview

The Phoenix Mercury hardly look like the high-powered unit that won a league title last year.

They're hoping a matchup with one of the league's worst road clubs can help them get back on track offensively.

Phoenix tries to avoid dropping back-to-back home games for the first time in two years Friday night against the Los Angeles Sparks.

The Mercury (15-10) led the league with 83.5 points per game last year. A dip in production was expected without leading scorer Diana Taurasi (16.2 ppg), though the recent rut has been severe. They're averaging 75.6 points on the season but have been held to 64 or fewer in each loss during a 1-3 stretch.

Tuesday's 74-59 loss at Tulsa marked Los Angeles' lowest scoring total since June 27. The club committed 15 turnovers and was held to 33.3 percent shooting. DeWanna Bonner and Brittney Griner, the team's top two scorers, combined for 22 points on 6-for-23 shooting.

Bonner, averaging 16.6 points this year, has been held to 10.8 on 26.1 percent shooting over her last four games, while Griner is at 8.3 in her last three contests - down from 14.5 on the season.

As bad as the offense has been, the Mercury are still only 2 1/2 games behind first-place Minnesota. They're 10-3 at home and haven't dropped consecutive games there since a three-game skid July 10-21, 2013. Meanwhile, Los Angeles is 2-9 on the road and the Mercury won both meetings in Phoenix in 2014.

The Sparks (8-17) showed life with a four-game winning streak July 31-Aug. 6, but have also lost three of four. They're still in position for their 15th postseason appearance in 17 years despite a .320 winning percentage, which would be the worst by a playoff team in league history. They hold the current record after going 13-21 (.382) in 2010, when they were swept by Seattle in the conference semifinals.

Los Angeles was held to one basket in the final four minutes of a 79-68 loss to Indiana on Tuesday, though Candace Parker had one of her best performances since making her season debut July 29. She scored 25 with 10 rebounds, a team-record eight steals and six assists for her third straight double-double and sixth in seven games. Her 6.7 assists per game would top her previous career high of 4.3 from last year.

Parker was held to 14 points on 5-of-17 shooting in her last regular-season matchup with Phoenix, a 93-73 home loss July 24, 2014.

Nneka Ogwumike, averaging 16.1 points and 7.4 rebounds, sat out against the Fever and is day to day with concussion-like symptoms.

These clubs split two earlier meetings, with Los Angeles winning most recently 70-65 at home July 21. Bonner is averaging 18.5 points on 61.9 percent shooting in the season series.

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