Mercury-Sparks Preview

The Phoenix Mercury can clinch a WNBA playoff berth with a win over the sputtering Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles (24-8) is second in the WNBA's Western Conference, 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Minnesota Lynx. The Sparks have lost three in a row and five of eight since the Olympic break after going 21-3 before the break.

Despite their recent struggles, the Sparks are locked into the No. 2 seed in the playoffs with two games remaining on their regular-season schedule. They will conclude the regular season at home against the San Antonio Stars on Friday.

Phoenix (14-17) is fourth in the Western Conference, a half-game behind the third-place Seattle Storm and two games ahead of the Washington Mystics for the WNBA's final playoff spot. The Mercury needs one more win or a Washington loss to secure their place in the postseason.

Phoenix has three games remaining in the regular season. The Mercury will play host to Seattle on Thursday before concluding its regular-season schedule on the road against San Antonio on Sunday.

The Mercury swept the season series against Washington this season and would hold the tiebreaker advantage if they finish with identical records.

Los Angeles is coming off a 78-60 loss to Seattle. The Sparks elected to rest starters Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver. Candace Parker had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Chelsea Gray added 13 points.

Phoenix is coming off an 86-75 victory over the Atlanta Dream. Brittney Griner had 21 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots. Diana Taurasi added 17 points.

Los Angeles and Phoenix split their first two games this season. Parker had 24 points and 11 rebounds to help the Sparks beat the Mercury 77-71 on June 17 in Los Angeles. Taurasi scored 26 points and sank two free throws with eight seconds remaining to help the Mercury edge the Sparks 70-66 on Aug. 28 in Phoenix.

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