Sparks overcome slow start, Dream defense to gut out 77-73 win

Sparks defense stops Erika DeSouza in the third quarter
Alana Beard, Angel McCoughtry and Nneka Ogwumike fight for the rebound

Los Angeles, Calif. – The Los Angeles Sparks overcame a slow start and swarming Atlanta Dream defense to punch out a 77-73 win Wednesday, and remain undefeated at home.

Kristi Toliver lead four Sparks in double figures, with 15 points, while Alana Beard and Lindsey Harding each added 13. It was the sixth straight win for Los Angeles, and their ninth home court win of the season.

Angel McCoughtry was the high-scorer for Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta, which has been hobbled with injuries of late. She had 24 points, while Armintie Herrington added 18 and Erika DeSouza, 15 points and 18 rebounds.

Los Angeles won it despite being outrebounded, 45-36, and outscored in the paint, 48-26.

Sparks point guard Lindsey Harding said it was a tough game and a good challenge for the team, because it forced them to switch up their typical game plan.

“A lot of times we rely on our offense, and they made it very difficult for us to do that tonight,” Harding said. “So I think this is a great step in the right direction to know that we can still win.”

Atlanta put their hosts on their heels in the first quarter, limiting them to 30 percent shooting and leading 21-14 at the end of the period. Beard ignited Los Angeles at 4:16 in the second quarter with a 17-foot jump shot, fueling a Sparks 17-5 run to go into the break with the lead, 37-34. Beard had seven points in the period.

The third quarter was an even battle that saw eight lead changes and three ties. The Sparks broke it open in the fourth period, lead by Harding’s seven points and some key defense by reserve forward Jenna O’Hea. The Dream, missing key players Sancho Lyttle and Tiffany Hays, appeared to run out of gas.

Atlanta coach Fred Williams said the team focused on defense because the Sparks are such a strong offensive team. He called it a great team effort.

“Offensively we got a lot of shots – 87 attempts – and we just didn’t put some of them down when they counted. We still played through it,” Williams said.

McCoughtry, who missed the last game with a strained Achilles, acknowledge the challenge of being down two players.

“Sancho is out, and that’s 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. Tiffany Hayes is energy and running. It’s tough,” McCoughtry said. “You can see where we miss them, and I’m not 100 percent with my Achilles, so I’m trying to battle as hard as I can. We’re just going to battle, and try to scrape out these wins as best we can until they get back.”

Parker, who won an ESPY for best WNBA player last night, had an off-game with six points and 10 rebounds. But she said she was proud of the Sparks for “grinding out” the win.

“I’m just happy in the way that we played and we just kept fighting,” Parker said. “It was ugly, for sure.”

The Sparks face the Phoenix Mercury at Staples Center tonight.


Photo gallery


Angel McCoughtry initiates the drive to the rack