June 14, 2014

What is going on with the Los Angeles Sparks? That might be the biggest question in the WNBA heading down the final stretch of the regular season.

The Sparks won their first 11 games, dominated throughout the first three months of the season and entered the Olympic break with the best record in the league. But things have changed.

Out of nowhere, Los Angeles returned from the Olympic break with back-to-back loses. The Sparks will try to snap out of that funk Thursday when they travel to face the last-place San Antonio Stars.

The Stars (6-20) went into the tank shortly after leading scorer Kayla McBride was lost for the season with a foot injury in early July. San Antonio is 1-7 since McBride went down and is coming off of an 89-62 blowout loss to the Connecticut Sun.

The Stars rank 12th in points per game and 11th in assists per game. The Sparks held the Stars to 61 points in back-to-back wins in early June and have beaten the Stars in five straight games overall.

Los Angeles' recent struggles have not impacted the play of forward Nneka Ogwumike, who is among the league leaders in points and rebounds.

Turnovers have been a major issue during Los Angeles' recent struggles.

The Sparks turned the ball over 21 times in Sunday's 70-66 loss to Phoenix, which dropped Los Angeles out of first place and into second behind the Minnesota Lynx.

Candace Parker had 25 points and 13 rebounds, but the turnovers were too much to overcome for the Sparks. Los Angeles committed 17 turnovers in a loss to Seattle in its first game back after the monthlong Olympic break.

Los Angeles brought in reinforcements this week with the signing of veteran forward Sandrine Gruda.

"Sandrine adds another layer of experience and leadership to our deep roster," Sparks executive vice president and general manager Penny Toler said in a release announcing the acquisition. "She was an integral part of our team in 2014 and we look forward to her being able to come in and have an impact through the final regular-season push and into the playoffs."

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