Wings face challenge against Sparks

The Dallas Wings are grasping to reasons for hope heading into their home game Friday night against the WNBA’s top team, the Los Angeles Sparks.

Dallas (5-5) rallied from a 21-point deficit on the road against defending champion Minnesota on Tuesday behind a season-high 35 bench points, including 12 points and four rebounds from forward Kayla Thornton.

The Wings outscored the Lynx 25-15 in the fourth quarter and cut the lead to four points with just under 90 seconds to play, but they couldn’t get closer in the 91-83 loss.

The Wings were led by Skylar Diggins-Smith, who had 17 points and seven assists. Post player Liz Cambage added 16 points, nine rebounds and a career-high five assists.

Azura Stevens scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds, and Aerial Powers had eight points and four rebounds to contribute to the bench’s production.

“I just think the energy level picked up, you know, we told them in the huddle to keep plugging along and get our energy level up,” Dallas coach Fred Williams said. “We hit some shots, made some plays, and in the first half they went to the line maybe four times and I told them at half, ‘You better be ready because that may change,’ and then they went to the line probably 25 more times.

“We just didn’t take care of the ball when we needed to down that third-quarter stretch, especially in that first quarter.”

Los Angeles (9-2) won its fifth straight game with a 74-55 victory over the league’s worst team, the Indiana Fever (1-11), on Tuesday.

The 55 points allowed is a season best for the Sparks, who were led by Candace Parker’s 15 points. Chelsea Gray added 14 points and Nneka Ogwumike scored 12.

With the best winning percentage in the WNBA (.818, with Phoenix’s .769 next), Parker said she knows other teams will give the Sparks their best shot.

“We know everyone wants to knock us off,” Parker said. “We’re prepared for it, and just are trying to get those top two spots. That’s our key. We don’t try to worry about everybody else.”

Parker, who is in her 11th season in the WNBA, is averaging 16.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

“I don’t think we’re at where we want to be, but we’re playing pretty good basketball,” Parker said. “Our offense is so open and equal opportunity. Our bench, at any given time … we can count on every player to step up. We’re at our best when we are able to play in that secondary transition game, where I bring the ball up and we’re cutting and moving.”