Sparks-Dream preview

The Los Angeles Sparks had to work overtime on Friday to beat Connecticut and secure its 20th win in its first 21 games, tying the WNBA record for the best start to a season.

Now Los Angeles will look to continue its winning ways when travels to Atlanta for a 3 p.m. EDT tipoff against the Dream at Philips Arena.

The Sparks, at 20-1 on the season, have won nine straight games and all nine of their contests on the road this season.

The victory over Connecticut allowed Los Angeles to reach the mark of best record through 21 games as set by the Houston Comets in 1998. Houston ended up 27-3 in the regular season in 1998 — a record that still stands — on the way to the second of its four consecutive WNBA championships.

It took a Herculean performance from Jantel Lavender — who scored a career-high 25 points and added a season-best 10 rebounds, and Kristi Tolliver (who scored eight of her 24 points in overtime) for the Sparks to tie the record. Los Angeles was down by 16 points in the third quarter before roaring back.

“No one wants to be down by that much (in the third quarter),” said Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, who leads LA in scoring and is fourth in the league at 19.2 points a game. “We didn't come out with the focus that we wanted to and hopefully that's the first and the last time that happens. Today was eye-opening for us.”

The Dream (10-10) have lost two straight games, both on the road, including a 78-72 setback on Friday at Indiana. Atlanta dropped the first meeting of the season at Los Angeles by nine points, so it knows it can play with the league's top team.

Dream forward Angel McCoughtry is the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the period ending July 10, having honor for the second time this season and the 15th time in her eight-year career.

McCoughtry is sixth in the league in scoring at 19 points per game but was held to just nine points by the Sparks in the first game this season between the two teams.