Sparks look to add to woes of Stars (Jul 27, 2017)

BY AP • July 27, 2017

Despite a roster with three of the best players in the WNBA and wearing the crown as defending league champions, the Los Angeles Sparks have not been nearly as dominating this season as last, mostly due to their struggle to close out close games.

That hasn't stopped Los Angeles from forging the second-best record in the league, a mark on which it will look to improve when it squares off against the hapless San Antonio Stars on Friday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.

The Sparks head to the Alamo City on the heels of a 68-60 home win over Seattle on Tuesday in which Candace Parker scored 17 points -- 14 of them in the first half -- and pulled down 10 rebounds.

Los Angeles (15-6), which finished off a four-game homestand, put away a late Seattle charge as Nneka Ogwumike scored eight of her 13 points in the final 7:58 of the game and took 10 rebounds. Los Angeles also got 14 points from Jantel Lavender and 11 off the bench from Riquna Williams.

Los Angeles' bench outscored Seattle's reserves 25-2 in the game and 47-2 over the past two meeting between the two teams.

"We played very well defensively (in the win over Seattle)," Sparks coach Brian Agler said. "The other thing is that we got 13 offensive rebounds, which is a high for us this year, which gave us opportunities. I like that and the direction we're moving, so we'll see how it plays out."

San Antonio (3-19) is still the only team in the WNBA without consecutive victories this season and has gone since July 2015 (when they defeated Indiana and Atlanta in consecutive home games) without back-to-back wins.

The Stars' most recent game was also Tuesday, when they crawled out of the gate and fell behind by as many as 19 points before making a late-game surge that was not nearly enough in an 85-76 loss at home to the Washington Mystics.

Any chance San Antonio had against the Mystics was doomed early on when it scored just nine points -- a season low for any quarter this season -- in the opening period. The Stars had a 3 1/2-minute scoreless stretch in the period and then failed to score for the final 2:09 of the quarter.

"In the second, third and fourth quarters, we were very aggressive -- that was a team that I could recognize," Stars coach Vickie Johnson said. "But the first quarter was very bad for us."

Kelsey Plum hit for 15 points for the Stars (3-19), the third straight game the league's top draft pick has scored in double figures. Dearica Hamby also scored 15 points, Kayla McBride hit for 12 points and Alex Montgomery grabbed 11 rebounds for San Antonio.

"That's what I was brought here to do," Plum said. "To try to create, to be aggressive, to score and to look for my teammates -- especially when we're down and there's nothing to lose. You have to get in the game and bring something, so I was trying to bring a spark."

The two teams played in Los Angeles on June 15 with the Sparks garnering an 80-75 win that allowed them to extend their winning streak against San Antonio to nine games. Parker (20 points), Chelsea Gray (19) and Ogwumike (16) combined for 55 points in that victory while Moriah Jefferson led San Antonio with 24 points off the bench.

The Stars have not defeated Los Angeles since July, 8, 2015, but have a 19-19 overall home record against the Sparks.

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