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Sparks’ new goal: more wins on road

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LOS ANGELES — If the Los Angeles Sparks want to win their first WNBA championship, coach Michael Cooper believes they're going to have to win on the road.

The Sparks improved to 7-0 at Staples Center on Thursday with a 73-50 victory over the Phoenix Mercury, but Cooper stressed home court should not be used as a comfort zone. Los Angeles is 6-3 away from home.

"I'd rather be a better team on the road because championships are won on the road."

He cited Houston, New York, Cleveland and Sacramento as places where the Sparks will need victories in order to win a title.

"We're going to have to beat somebody on their court, then make them come and beat us two straight if not one out of two," Cooper said.

Lisa Leslie had 23 points and 15 rebounds — her eighth double-double in 15 games — but she committed two straight turnovers to start the second half.

"I wasn't where I was supposed to be on our press breaker, and that kind of threw us out of sync," said Leslie, who liked the way the Sparks built a 37-20 halftime lead. "It caused two or three turnovers. I apologized to the team because I should've been in the right position."

Leslie recovered and scored four points in a row as the Sparks built a 43-22 lead with 16:39 remaining.

Phoenix got no closer than 13 points twice in the second half, both times on baskets by Maria Stepanova, who had 11 points.

Adrain Williams, who led Phoenix with 12 points, said the Mercury needed a near-perfect game to win.

"They've got great players, Olympians on their team," said Williams, who is nursing tendinitis in her knees. "I just want to go out there and play the best for my team."

Phoenix managed to score just seven points in the game's first 10 minutes and went on to shoot 25 percent in the half.

"They have a great team, but I am not going to let it get to me," Mercury forward Jennifer Gillom said. "Any game can be won. We just have to keep fighting."