The Los Angeles Sparks snapped a two-game losing streak with a win over the dismal San Antonio Stars on Thursday. But it wasn't easy, and the uneven performance adds to the concerns facing the Sparks heading into the final seven games of the season.
Los Angeles will try to complete a Texas two-step in two nights on Friday, when the Sparks take on the struggling Dallas Wings at College Park Center. The Sparks have clinched a playoff spot.
Los Angeles (22-5) lost its first two games after returning from the Olympic break and had a tough time putting away the Stars on Thursday. They trailed midway through the fourth quarter, until Kristi Toliver and Candace Parker fueled a late push to put away San Antonio, owner of the worst record in the WNBA, in a low-scoring 70-61 victory.
The Wings (9-19) haven't been much better and have dropped nine straight games, the longest current losing streak in the WNBA. But the Sparks, who spent the majority of the season with the best record in the league, haven't been playing well, either.
The Wings are surrendering a league-worst 88.2 points per game. Odyssey Sims is averaging 14.3 points per game, and star forward Glory Johnson is averaging 11.7 points and 9.1 rebounds for Dallas.
The Sparks have failed to score 80 points in any of their three games since the month-long Olympic break. Forward Nneka Ogwumike leads the team in points (19.7) and rebounds (9.1), and Parker is having another big all-around season, averaging 16.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists.
The Sparks won both previous meetings this season, most recently a close 89-84 home victory over the Wings on June 28. Parker had 31 points and 13 points in the win. It was an emotional performance for Parker, in her first game since losing her beloved college coach at Tennessee, the late Pat Summitt.
The Wings led by 22 in the third quarter, but had no answers for the Sparks down the stretch. Dallas has won only twice since blowing that big lead to the Sparks.