The Sparks have preached the value of controlling their own destiny in the WNBA playoff picture. But after Thursday, Los Angeles is going to need some help if it is to get a double-bye into the semifinals.
The Sparks lost to the Washington Mystics on Thursday, 80-72. L.A. came within one possession a couple of times in the final two minutes, but Washington center Myisha Hines-Allen hit two late 3-pointers and found Emma Meesseman for a dagger transition layup with 34.7 seconds to play.
With the loss, the Sparks fell to 15-6 on the season. Combined with the Las Vegas Aces’ win over Minnesota on Thursday, Los Angeles fell 1.5 games behind the second-place Aces and the WNBA’s two double-bye seeds.
So if the Sparks are to get the double-bye, they will need to beat the Aces on Saturday and hope the Seattle Storm topple Vegas in the season-finale on Sunday.
Los Angeles played behind for much of the second half on Thursday, despite Washington playing with just eight players. The Mystics shot 50.8% from the floor, and won both the rebounding and turnover battles.
A layup from Candace Parker tied the game at 68 with 3:46 to play, but the Sparks were outscored 12-4 the rest of the way.
Chelsea Gray led the Sparks with 21 points, while Nneka Ogwumike scored 15 and Brittney Sykes 11 in her return from a one-game absence due to a bruised abdomen. Parker scored nine points with 17 rebounds.
The Sparks and Mystics played each other to a standstill through the first 18 minutes, tied at 36 with two minutes left in the first half. But the Sparks started a 9-0 run with an Ogwmuike layup and capped it with a Riquna Williams 3-pointer, with Parker finding the sixth woman in the corner on the break with a one-handed pass.
Hines-Allen hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it a six-point Sparks lead at the half.
But the most significant moment in the first half came earlier in the second quarter, when Sparks forward Seimone Augustus made a jumper to become the 10th player in WNBA history to join the 6,000-point club.