Mystics-Sparks Preview

The Associated Press

Since an uncharacteristic defensive effort just over a week ago, the Los Angeles Sparks have been more successful after committing to buckling down at that end of the floor.

The Washington Mystics may need to take some lessons.

Los Angeles seeks a third consecutive win while dealing visiting Washington a third straight loss Sunday night.

The Sparks (4-2) were far from their best on June 14, falling to Phoenix 97-81 while allowing the Mercury to shoot 50 percent from the field. They've seen much better results since that humbling defeat, making a conscious effort to improve defensively.

Los Angeles held San Antonio to 30.2 percent shooting in an 84-48 win June 15 before routing two-time defending Western Conference champion Minnesota 87-59 on Friday.

Kristi Toliver scored a game-high 19 points, and Nneka Ogwumike added 18 and eight rebounds while helping hold the Lynx to 34.9 percent shooting.

"We were very disappointed. That was not who we were," Toliver said of the loss to Phoenix. "We wanted to identify ourselves and we are now going to be the toughest and the baddest team on the floor on a night-to-night basis.''

Ogwumike also added five assists, and Lindsey Harding returned to the lineup to score 13 points after missing the previous game with an eye injury.

"We didn't want to start bouncing around and be inconsistent,'' Ogwumike said. "To see the same consistency almost a week later in this game is definitely solidifying the identity that we're trying to find.''

Washington hasn't had much trouble scoring, but its spotty defense has been responsible for digging too big of a deficit to overcome in its last two defeats.

The Mystics (4-3) allowed 18 points in overtime and fell 96-86 to Seattle on Tuesday before their late rally fell short in Friday's 90-82 loss to Phoenix. They had won their previous three games.

"Their shots were falling,'' coach Mike Thibault said of the latest defeat. "It's disappointing because we had a chance to get back in the game, (but) we took some bad shots down the stretch.''

The offense hasn't been the issue, though. Ivory Latta scored 22 points while Matee Ajavon added 18 and Monique Currie finished with 17 and eight rebounds against the Mercury.

Latta, averaging a team-best 18.6 points, shot 10 of 16 from the field after scoring nine points and attempting a season-low seven shots against Seattle. Currie has scored in double figures in five straight after averaging 8.3 points in her first four.

Currie had 16 points in the last meeting with the Sparks on Sept. 7, but Toliver and Candace Parker netted 18 apiece in Los Angeles' 96-68 victory for its third straight win in the series.

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