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Sparks defeat Mercury in barnburner

Jantel Lavender led the Los Angeles Sparks with 19 points as they upset the defending champion Phoenix Mercury, snapping their five-game losing streak as All-Star weekend comes closer.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, CA - The Phoenix Mercury came into Tuesday's game essentially owning the Los Angeles Sparks, winning the last nine games. The Sparks put that streak to an end, upsetting the defending champions 70-65 in a hardwood tug of war.

Jantel Lavender, surprisingly not an All-Star selection for the upcoming game this weekend, led all scorers with 19 points. The Mercury, led by DeWanna Bonner's 15 points, had four players in double figures.

The game started off with Sparks guard Marianna Toll scoring five of the team's first 19 points. The Mercury had a slow start, falling behind fast as they only scored 14 points in the opening quarter. They would end the quarter down 21-14.

At the beginning of the second quarter, the Sparks' Lavender and Noelle Quinn of the Mercury had their own game of one-on-one. The two traded shot for shot, with Lavender scoring nine points to Quinn's seven. However, the Mercury would fight back, only trailing the Sparks by three (38-35) as halftime approached.

With 8:24 in the third quarter, Bonner's driving layup would give Phoenix their first lead of the game, 41-40. But the Sparks would take it right back with a Lavender layup. The two teams traded the lead back and forth until the fourth quarter.

In the final quarter, Candice Dupree and Brittney Griner would be responsible for the Mercury's final eight points. Griner would tie the game at 62 with two free throws; this would be the last time Phoenix got close. The Sparks' Nneka Ogwumike, Kristi Toliver and Ana Dabovic would keep Phoenix at bay, scoring the final eight points for the team.

With the win, Los Angeles improved their record to 3-12, still the worst in the league. But the Sparks do have something to look forward to: franchise cornerstone Candace Parker announced earlier in the week that she will be returning after the All-Star break.

Phoenix saw their record fall to 9-7, placing them in a virtual tie with the Tulsa Shock (10-8) for second place in the Western Conference.