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Sparks: win helped them turn a corner

The Sparks celebrate their win over the New York Liberty June 24. Photo by Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.

Los Angeles Sparks players say they have righted their ship – for now.

After losing three straight games and five of their last seven, the Sparks outlasted the first-place Seattle Storm in overtime Tuesday, 77-75, for their first win at KeyArena since 2015. It was a gutty showing in which Los Angeles stepped up their defense down the stretch and remained poised to execute some key plays.

The difference in the game was marked from their home loss to the Washington Mystics three days earlier, when the visitors outran their opponents in the game’s final minutes to win by nine points.

Forward Nneka Ogwumike said the Sparks had been “needing to regain their bearings.”

“We’ve been digging, and today we dug some more and we finally found what we were looking for,” she said.

Ogwumike said the team needed to attain a collective awareness about who they are as a group.

“We kind of lost that as far as how we play out there,” she said. “We lost our aggression and the effort to do the little things. So today we made it a point to go and box out, get (offensive) boards, set screens and talk on defense. I think we’ve re-identified ourselves.”

Veteran guard Essence Carson said the team hit a predictable wall.

“We had to tighten up some things,” she said. “Yeah, you could call it a little slump. It happens to every team each and every year. You get into a little stretch where there’s a rough patch. Some teams had it at the beginning of the year, i.e. Minnesota. We just finished going through ours; Connecticut had a little rough patch.”

The WNBA champions in 2016, Los Angeles began this season in first place in league standings, and now sit in third after falling as far as fourth. At least nine of the WNBA’s 12 teams have spent a majority of the season with less than a one-game difference between themselves and others in the standings.

Carson said the fierce competition makes the fight to stay on top even more challenging.

“In a game like this, when you’re dealing with so many great athletes and great players, it’s definitely hard to maintain that level of excellence, and that’s why so few teams win a championship,” Carson said. “We got to that point where we needed to make some adjustments and look within ourselves, dig in a little deeper. We showed some championship characteristics today.”

The Sparks host sixth-place Dallas Thursday.

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