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Sparks-Mercury Preview

The Associated Press

The Phoenix Mercury's march toward WNBA history fittingly includes a pair of wins over the Los Angeles Sparks.

The Mercury, who are closing in on the Sparks' league record for consecutive victories, seek their 16th in a row when they host Los Angeles on Tuesday night.

Phoenix (21-3) hasn't lost since June 12, winning 15 straight to match the second-longest streak in league history. Two of those wins have come on the road against the Sparks.

The Mercury have been tough at both ends of the floor as they lead the league in scoring average (85.7) and points allowed per game (74.7) - an 11.0 differential nearly six higher than that of the next closest team, Minnesota.

Brittney Griner had 18 points and six blocks and Diana Taurasi added 15 points and 10 assists to help Phoenix cruise to another win Saturday, 78-63 over the New York Liberty.

The Liberty, coached by former Pistons "Bad Boy" Bill Laimbeer, tried to play tough against the 6-foot-8 Griner to no avail. While Griner did get flustered in the fourth quarter and received a flagrant-1 foul, Phoenix responded with a 10-0 run to put the game away.

"That 'Bad Boy' stuff, that's dead in the water," Taurasi said. "That doesn't work anymore. That's such '80s basketball, but I guess they keep it rolling like that."

Griner, who broke the league mark for blocks in a game with 11 at Tulsa on June 29, now has 94 on the year - 20 shy of Margo Dydek's 16-year-old season record with 10 to play.

The previous five victories have marked the most dominant stretch of the streak for the Mercury, who have won those games by an average of 16.2 points and show no signs of slowing down after matching the 15-game run by the 1998 Houston Comets.

Despite the streak, Phoenix leads the Lynx by just two games in the Western Conference, though Saturday's win did clinch homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The Sparks (12-14), who won a WNBA-record 18 straight in 2001, have responded to a 93-73 home loss to the Mercury on Thursday with two straight victories.

After winning 77-69 at Seattle on Saturday, they returned home Monday night to beat Indiana 77-73. Nneka Ogwumike scored 21 points and Alana Beard added 17 against the Fever to help Los Angeles forge a tie with San Antonio for third place in the West.

"We're a team of adjustments this year, so we've done a good job of just focusing on the task at hand," Ogwumike said. "We know what everyone's capable of, and we bring everything we can to the table."

Los Angeles is 8-5 on the road this season.

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