The Atlanta Dream ended the Los Angeles Sparks' quest to record the best start to a WNBA season the last time the two teams met. The Dream could deliver another blow to the Sparks on Thursday, when they visit Staples Center in a big game for both teams' playoff seeding.
The Sparks fell off their first-place perch after dropping a low-scoring slugfest with the Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday. Los Angeles fell behind early, suffered through a third-quarter scoring drought and couldn't complete a fourth-quarter comeback in a 77-74 loss to the Lynx, who moved into sole possession of first place.
The loss snapped the Sparks' three-game win streak and continued their uneven performance since returning from the Olympic break. Los Angeles is just 3-3 since the break.
The Dream (15-14) are coming off a 91-87 win over the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday. It was a bounce-back win for Atlanta, which lost to the Seattle Storm at home over the weekend.
"Sometimes it takes a difficult loss, like the last game against Seattle, to turn things around," Atlanta coach Michael Cooper told reporters. "Obviously, we want to go out and win every game we play but that game really let us know that we have to keep our focus and come and play with energy in every single game. When we are able to do that we are one of the best teams in this league."
Atlanta has alternated wins and losses and is 2-2 since returning from the Olympic break. With five contests remaining, the Dream sit in fifth place in the league standings, but only three games separate the teams in fourth through eighth.
The top eight teams in the league standings, regardless of conference, qualify for the postseason.
Los Angeles trails Minnesota by one game in the standings with four to play. The Sparks lost the season series with the Lynx and would need a remarkable finish to regain the top seed in the playoffs.
A win over the Dream would be a good start.
Atlanta and Los Angeles have split their previous two meetings this season, with each squad winning on its home court.
The Dream pounded the Sparks 91-74 on July 17 in Atlanta, thwarting Los Angeles' bid to record the best start in WNBA history. The Sparks had won 20 of their first 21 games, but Atlanta's Layshia Clarendon and Angel McCoughtry each scored 17 points in the Dream's win.