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Sparks still hot, beat up Mercury

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Sparks 77, Mercury 63

PHOENIX — If the Western Conference standings remain unchanged, the Los Angeles Sparks should like their chances in the opening round of the WNBA playoffs.

Lisa Leslie had 22 points and 14 rebounds as the Sparks beat Phoenix 77-63 Saturday for their 11th straight victory.

The Sparks (27-3) have won 23 of their last 24 games and completed a sweep of their three-game season series against the Mercury (19-11).

Phoenix, which clinched a Western Conference playoff spot when Utah lost to Charlotte later Saturday night, had its two-game winning streak snapped.

"The way things are shaping up, it looks like we will play them" in the playoffs, Sparks coach Michael Cooper said.

"People were talking before the game that this was a statement game. Statement or not, this was a good effort for us. The girls put together a good performance in the second half. We played well when we had to."

The game was a possible preview of the playoffs because Los Angeles leads the Western Conference and Phoenix is in fourth place, meaning the two would meet in a best-of-three first-round series if the standings don't change.

"We wanted to send a message to them," Leslie said. "We have a lot of respect for them. We give them a lot of credit. We recognize we can't look past them. They always play hard and are tough here. We know that."