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Sparks vs. Mercury Final Score: L.A. overpowered on road by Phoenix big three

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Diana Taurasi, DeWanna Bonner and Brittney Griner combined to score 71 against the Sparks on Sunday afternoon in Phoenix

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After earning wins over the Phoenix Mercury in their first two matchups of the regular season, the Los Angeles Sparks were defeated 86-78 Sunday afternoon, falling to 18-13 on the season.

Diana Taurasi (20 points, career-high 14 assists), DeWanna Bonner (31 points, eight rebounds) and Brittney Griner (20 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks) led the way for Phoenix. The Mercury star trio shot 57 percent from the field, and Bonner hit five of her 11 3-point attempts.

Taurasi capped a 17-2 run early in the fourth quarter that pushed the Mercury lead to 19.

Candace Parker scored L.A.’s first 12 points, but the All-Star forward got little help from the starting backcourt. Chelsea Gray, Odyssey Sims and Alana Beard shot a combined 3-of-16 with five turnovers.

Rookie Maria Vadeeva (15 points, 7-of-9 shooting in 15 minutes) turned in one of her best performances of the season, contributing to a third quarter push that got the Sparks within four points. The 6’4 forward drilled a face-up jumper over Bonner and did her best to body up the 6’9 Griner on the other end.

Phoenix managed to build its lead back up late in the third, though. With the Mercury up by five and in the bonus, Vadeeva fouled Bonner in the backcourt after she collected a defensive rebound. Briann January grabbed a Sparks miss on the ensuing possession and found Yvonne Turner for a 3-pointer in transition to push their lead back up to double digits.

L.A. couldn’t stop the bleeding in the closing seconds of the third — Parker was whistled for an offensive foul and Gray threw the ball away — setting the stage for Bonner to send the home crowd into a frenzy.

Taurasi got into the lane on the opening possession of the fourth and found Bonner for another three, and by then the damage had been done.

The Sparks could still wind up finishing anywhere between third and seventh in the standings. A third- or fourth-place finish would secure a single bye, then they’d host a second round single-elimination playoff game with a birth into the semifinals on the line. As the seven seed, they’d be on the road for a first round game just two days after their regular season finale.

L.A. closes the season with trips to Washington and Connecticut — two clubs also jockeying for that first-round bye. Before looking too far ahead, though, the Sparks must take care of business Tuesday against the 7-23 New York Liberty in their final regular season home game of the season (7:30 PM PT, NBA TV).