The Los Angeles Sparks led the Atlanta Dream 67-66 with 7:03 to play after a Chelsea Gray put back. In the last game for both teams before the All-Star break, the Dream managed to pull a tough one out on the road on the backs of a 9-0 run spanning nearly five minutes of game time to remain in second place in the standings.
UCLA alum Monique Billings (eight points, six rebounds, two assists) closed the game at the four spot for the Dream. Tuesday’s game, her second playing back in LA as a professional, was yet another reminder of the tremendous value she was as the No. 15 overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft.
Angel McCoughtry scored 15 of Atlanta’s first 22 points, and Brittney Sykes poured in 13 on 6-of-10 shooting off the bench. McCoughtry and Tiffany Hayes canned several tough shots down the stretch to help slam the door shut as the Dream pieced together stops on the other end.
Gray turned in a fine performance on both ends. LA’s All-Star point guard swiped two steals and took three charges to go with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting in the losing effort.
The Sparks went cold in the fourth quarter while struggling to get the ball into the paint against Atlanta’s top-ranked defense. Candace Parker shot 5-of-16, and LA shot just 5-of-20 from deep in total. Essence Carson knocked down three of the team’s five triples, all of which came in the first half.
Not to sound like a broken record, but Nneka Ogwumike (illness) and Alana Beard (strained groin) did not play once again for the Sparks. We are not that far removed from a stretch in which the Sparks lost seven of 10. A win Tuesday night would have put them alone in second place with eight games to play.
Now, just one game separates the Sparks from the Connecticut Sun, currently sitting in the eighth and final playoff spot.
That is the kind of season it has been in the WNBA.
The Sparks will host the Minnesota Lynx coming out of the break August 2 (10 PM ET, ESPN2). Parker, Gray, and Ogwumike (health permitting) will head to Minneapolis in the meantime to participate in the WNBA All-Star Game, which tips at 3:30 PM ET on Saturday on ABC.