WNBA: Struggling Sparks seek to stop skid vs. Aces

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Two teams on opposite trajectories will meet Friday when the Los Angeles Sparks, looking to end an eight-game tailspin, host the red-hot Las Vegas Aces.

Las Vegas (12-6) scored its sixth consecutive win on Thursday with a 98-77 rout of the Washington Mystics, continuing to build on what coach Becky Hammon emphasized is the team’s approach.

“We’re trying to be on them about playing the right way offensively, and being purposeful defensively — intentional, physical,” she said Thursday.

Las Vegas has scored at least 85 points in every game during its winning streak. Over the past six games, the Aces are averaging 91.3 points, with opponents averaging 77.2 points per game.

Kelsey Plum followed up a season-high 34 points in Tuesday’s 88-69 defeat of Indiana with 28 points against the Mystics, highlighted by a 6-of-9 performance from 3-point range.

Jackie Young added a double-double of 20 points and 10 assists. A’ja Wilson had 18 points and nine rebounds against the Mystics.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles (4-15) squandered a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of an 82-80 heartbreaking loss, also to Washington. The Mystics outscored the Sparks 30-16 in the fourth quarter.

Dearica Hamby was one of four Los Angeles starters to score in double figures. Her 16-point, 11-rebound effort marked her 12th double-double of the season and first since June 14.

Forward Stephanie Talbot, who has seen a bigger role since rookie Cameron Brink sustained a season-ending ACL injury, scored a season-high 17 points to match Aari McDonald’s team high.

“We did a lot of good things in stretches. It’s not going to feel good because of the fourth quarter,” coach Curt Miller said following Tuesday’s setback. “It’s never as good as you think and it’s never as bad. … In the fourth quarter, we did some decent things.”

Miller pointed to the team’s 61.1 percent shooting at the free-throw line as instrumental in the loss to the Mystics. At 75.4 percent for the season, Los Angeles ranks next-to-last in the 12-team league for free-throwing shooting to compound the Sparks’ overall scoring struggles.

They average 78 points per game, while the Aces lead the league at 88.3.

Los Angeles last won on June 9 in a 96-92 shootout against Las Vegas. The road loss was part of a three-game slide for the Aces that, since ending, they have gone 7-1.

–Field Level Media

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