Having squandered a golden opportunity to strengthen their hold on the No. 3 seed for the playoffs, the Los Angeles Sparks continue their fight for a first-round bye Tuesday night when they open a season-closing three-game homestand versus the Atlanta Dream.
Los Angeles (19-12) fell one-half game behind Las Vegas in the race for third with a 92-86 loss in Sin City on Saturday night, wasting a season-high 37-point effort by Riquna Williams while getting outscored 34-20 in the fourth quarter.
The Sparks split the season series with the Aces and lead the Chicago Sky - over whom they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker - by one-half game for the fourth and final spot that carries a first-round bye.
Williams hit seven 3-pointers but got little help offensively from her teammates as Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray were the only other Sparks players in double figures, but they combined to shoot 9 for 27. All-Star Nneka Ogwumike was limited to 12 minutes due to an undisclosed illness but still contributed eight points and seven rebounds.
Gray endured a 3-for-13 shooting night coming off a 30-point effort in which she hit seven 3-pointers. The Sparks are 7-1 when Gray - a 40.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc - makes at least three treys compared to 12-10 when she makes two or fewer.
The Sparks carry an 11-game home winning streak into this contest, averaging 85.2 points while outscoring opponents by 13 per contest.
Atlanta (7-24) is enduring its worst year since finishing with four victories in its inaugural 2008 season and looking to salvage a split of its two-game road swing. Despite tying a franchise record with 14 3-pointers, the Dream were undone by 18 turnovers in their 92-75 loss at Seattle on Sunday.
Four of those miscues came in the final 4:29, when Atlanta was outscored 15-2 after cutting a 17-point halftime deficit to four. Renee Montgomery and Monique Billings scored 15 points apiece for the Dream, with Montgomery surpassing 3,500 points for her career.
Despite losing eight of their last 10 games, the Dream have played much better on the offensive end of late - topping 70 points on seven occasions and averaging 76.7 points in that span. Atlanta is last in the league in scoring at 71.6 points per game.
The Sparks won the only previous meeting this year, 76-71 in overtime in Atlanta on July 14 as Williams hit five 3-pointers and finished with 23 points. Ogwumike added 17 and 15 rebounds as Los Angeles recovered after blowing a seven-point lead late in regulation.