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    Sparks look to maintain confidence against Mercury
    • July 6, 2024

    LOS ANGELES — The Sparks have found a recipe for success against one of the elite teams in the WNBA.

    That stems from avoiding a franchise-record nine-game losing streak with a rousing 98-93 overtime victory against the Aces on Friday night at Crypto.com Arena.

    “This league is interesting, there’s just matchups of some teams that you match up better than others,” Sparks coach Curt Miller Miller said. “There’s a confidence in our locker room.”

    Miller appreciates his team’s newfound confidence and believes it will remain for the next four games before the league’s Olympic Break in three weeks (July 21-Aug. 14).

    The Sparks (5-15), who lost both games to the Mercury this season in Phoenix, will have an opportunity for redemption Sunday afternoon at Crypto.com Arena.

    “We just have an opportunity to continue to get better and better,” Miller said.

    In their last matchup with Phoenix, the Sparks suffered a 92-78 loss. After leading 45-44 at halftime, they were not able to withstand the Mercury’s second-half surge and Diana Taurasi’s 3-pointer shooting prowess.

    The Sparks’ unsung hero of late has been Stephanie Talbot. The veteran forward finished with 13 points, five rebounds and a season-high nine assists Friday in her third start in place of rookie forward Cameron Brink, who is lost for the season with a torn ACL. Talbot is coming off her own ACL injury that forced her to miss last season.

    “It doesn’t get talked about, but Steph Talbot is a really good passer,” Miller added.

    On Friday night, Talbot hit a game-tying and overtime-forcing shot with less than four seconds left, propelling the Sparks’ emotional win against the two-time defending WNBA champions.

    “Steph (Talbot) is so underrated,” Sparks guard Aari McDonald said, who dropped a career-high 23 points on the Aces. “She’s been playing her butt off since entering the starting lineup. She’s been the glue that we needed keeping us together, staying composed and just doing the little things that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet (Friday night) and I’m just proud of her.”

    Dearica Hamby’s emboldened play, with 28 points, 13 rebounds and four assists, rubbed off on her Sparks teammates Friday night.

    “Staying together, low turnovers, executing, knocking down open shots,” Sparks rookie forward Rickea Jackson said. “I felt like we played with a lot of grit (Friday night).”

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    Hamby is halfway through the best season in her career, averaging 18.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists. On Tuesday, she earned her first All-Star nod since being traded by the Aces while pregnant before last season.

    Since the trade, the 10-year veteran has played all 60 games for the Sparks, the only player who has not missed a game since Miller took over.

    MERCURY (10-10) AT SPARKS (5-15)

    When: 4 p.m. Sunday

    Where: Crypto.com Arena

    TV: Spectrum SportsNet

    ​ Orange County Register 

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