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    Sparks fall to Atlanta for 2nd time this week as losing streak reaches 4 games
    • July 6, 2023

    LOS ANGELES — Sparks coach Curt Miller almost got his wish at home against the Atlanta Dream on Wednesday night. His team fought hard early in the second half, trimming a 13-point halftime deficit to five midway through the third quarter.

    But their sheer will was not enough, and the Sparks eventually found themselves trailing by as much as 21 points in the fourth quarter on their way to their fourth straight loss, 90-79, at Arena.

    “Really proud and that was the message afterward, that they showed a lot of character,” Miller said. “They really showed togetherness and toughness, that there was more fight in them. It was good to see. That is something that we can really grow from and learn from. Again, it may not all come together this year with everything that we’re dealing with but these moments go a long way two or three years down the road from now.”

    Nneka Ogwumike had another double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, Azurá Stevens had a season-high 16 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots off the bench and Jordin Canada had 13 points and seven assists, but the Sparks could not overcome Atlanta’s pivotal 13-0 run late in the third quarter, losing to the Dream for the second time this week.

    Rookie guard Zia Cooke added 11 points off the bench for the Sparks (7-11), who have dropped eight of their past 11 games. They next play at Phoenix (3-13) on Sunday.

    “We fought back,” Stevens said when asked about her team’s overall effort. “I think everyone can see that we had some fight and some oomph to how we played and I don’t think we had that in the (previous) game so that’s improvement and that’s what it’s all about is continuing to get better. That’s what we’re all focusing on as a unit and an organization is continuing to get better and we saw that tonight. Yeah, we lost but we fought and that’s really important.”

    Azurá Stevens on the fight the Sparks showed during Wednesday’s 90-79 loss at home to the Atlanta Dream.

    — John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) July 6, 2023

    “Next man up,” Canada added. “That’s the mentality that we have to have. Everybody has stepped up these last couple of games with injuries and dealing with a lot of adversity but we all have that mentality. Everybody has to stay ready because you never know when your number is going to get called. We have done a good job. You just have to stay consistent and stay together and try to figure out a way to come out a little bit more sharp in the first quarter.”

    All-Star reserve guard Allisha Gray had a game-high 23 points, four rebounds and six assists to pace Atlanta (8-8).

    Rhyne Howard, who was coming off a career-high 43 points in Sunday’s 112-84 win against the Sparks, added 15 points, five rebounds and six assists and was 5 for 9 from 3-point range. All-Star reserve forward Cheyenne Parker had 14 points and 11 rebounds.

    The Sparks trailed 29-16 at the end of the first quarter, as Atlanta’s Howard and former Spark Nia Coffey went a combined 5 for 7 from behind the arc while the Sparks shot 6 for 19 overall (32%).

    “We have to be hungry. We have to be ready right from the beginning,” Miller continued. “Again, that’s our challenge right now. Our veteran leaders have to be a big part of that.”

    LA Sparks head coach Curt Miller talks about his team’s competitiveness in a 90-79 loss at home against the Atlanta Dream. @CurtMillerWBB spoke highly of his team’s fight but said the team has to be hungry and ready to go at tip-off. #WNBA #LASparks

    — John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) July 6, 2023

    The Sparks trailed 37-20 early in the second quarter but a step-through layup by Stevens capped a 14-6 Sparks run that cut Atlanta’s lead to 43-34 with 4:41 left in the first half.

    However, the Sparks trailed 53-40 at halftime as the Dream made 20 of 34 shots from the field (58.8%), including 6 of 12 from 3-point range, in the first half.

    A 3-pointer by Sparks guard Jasmine Thomas cut Atlanta’s lead to 53-45 with 7:53 left in the third. A 3-pointer by Howard pushed Atlanta’s lead back to double digits, but Stevens responded with back-to-back baskets, pulling the Sparks within five 56-51 with 5:05 left in the third.

    That’s when Atlanta responded with its 13-0 run over the next three minutes, extending the lead to 69-51 with 1:37 left in the third.

    The Sparks trailed 71-58 heading into the fourth and found themselves down by 21 a few minutes later. The home team went on an 8-0 run to get within 81-69 with 5:38 left but could never cut the margin to single digits.

    Before the game, Miller said he wanted to see his team step up and compete against Atlanta.

    “It doesn’t matter if you have eight players, nine players. I’m resigned to the fact that we may never play with 11 players this year the way this season is going,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if we have eight players, we’ve got to play hard and try to create the foundation and a culture that we want to rely on years from now.”

    After a 112-84 loss to the Atlanta Dream on Sunday, Los Angeles Sparks head coach Curt Miller want to see how hard his team is going to compete against Atlanta in tonight’s rematch. #WNBA #WNBATwitter

    — John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) July 6, 2023

    The short-handed Sparks were without four opening-night starters (Jordin Canada, Lexie Brown, Layshia Clarendon, Chiney Ogwumike) during Sunday’s loss in Atlanta. Brown, Clarendon and Ogwumike remained out for the rematch but the prior game’s outcome inspired the Sparks to compete for all 40 minutes.

    “It doesn’t sit right to lose to them and sit with it for a long time so it’s nice that we get to play quickly,” Sparks forward Karlie Samuelson said before the game.

    Samuelson left the game in the second quarter with an apparent foot injury and will be evaluated further, according to Miller.

    Karlie Samuelson and Dearica Hamby’s pregame interview before the Atlanta at Sparks game. The Sparks are looking for a better showing after Sunday’s 112-84 loss in Atlanta. #WNBATwitter #WNBA

    — John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) July 6, 2023

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    ​ Orange County Register