LOS ANGELES (AP) The Washington Mystics had enough energy left at the end of a long road trip to head into the WNBA All-Star break on a high note.
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt scored a career-high 18 points and Monique Currie added 16 as Washington beat the Los Angeles Sparks 79-75 on Thursday night.
Ivory Latta scored 15 points for Washington (10-13), which had lost four of six. The Mystics moved into third place in the Eastern Conference just before All-Star weekend.
”It helps you relax more over the break, but also gives us some momentum going into the second half of the season,” Currie said. ”This is the end of a 10-day road trip, so it shows a lot for us to stay together and play hard and grind this win out.”
Currie helped Washington finish the trip 3-2 by clogging the paint for Sparks forward Candace Parker, who missed nine of her first 11 shots attempts and went 5-for-16 overall. The Mystics made 10 of 13 field goals and outscored the Sparks 27-16 in the third quarter.
Kia Vaughn had 14 points and nine rebounds and netted the go-ahead basket inside to make it 74-72. Latta sank two free throws with 18 seconds left, and the Sparks’ Kristi Toliver missed an ensuing 3-point attempt.
”They’re definitely a great team. What we can take from this is the way we played against them is how we have to play in our own conference,” Latta said. ”We can’t let up. The way we guard (Parker) is how we’ve got to guard the Cappie Pondexters, the Tina Charles, Angel McCoughty.”
Jantel Lavender scored a season-high 23 points to lead the Sparks (10-12), who had their season-best, three-game winning streak end. Parker scored 18 points, with seven rebounds and six assists, and Toliver had 13 points.
Parker, coming off a season-high 34-point game, scored eight points in the fourth quarter and pulled the Sparks into a 72-72 tie with two free throws. But Toliver and Parker turned it over on the Sparks’ next two possessions, and Emma Meesseman rebounded Latta’s miss for Washington.
The Sparks had 19 turnovers and were outrebounded 10-5 on the offensive boards. It was their sixth game in 11 days, and Parker said the break might be beneficial.
”I think it’s good for everybody to regroup and get time away, and then you come back with a fresher outlook,” Parker said.
The Sparks, 3-7 at home, haven’t won there since June 24.
”The past two years, it’s been a great haven for us and a great advantage,” Sparks coach Carol Ross said. ”But every team is different, and for whatever reason, this team is not focused. We’ve got to give our fans something to get behind us about, and we just haven’t done it. But fortunately, the best part of the season is in front of us, and we have to recapture that magic here at Staples Center.”