Sparks-Dream Preview

The Associated Press

While the Los Angeles Sparks appear to be getting stronger with the regular season winding down, the injury-plagued Atlanta Dream are headed in the opposite direction.

The visiting Sparks try to keep rolling Monday when they visit the Dream, who hope to avoid losing five straight for the first time in five years.

Los Angeles (21-8) has proven nearly unbeatable over the last four weeks, going 9-1 to secure its 13th playoff berth in 15 seasons. The Sparks, averaging 87.0 points during a three-game winning streak, beat San Antonio 80-67 on Saturday to open a four-game road trip.

Nneka Ogwumike led the way with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Candace Parker added 12 and 11 along with six assists. The Sparks outscored the Silver Stars 48-26 in the paint and held a 20-11 edge in transition.

"L.A. is a good basketball team," San Antonio coach Dan Hughes said. "Give them a lot of credit from the standpoint of their ability to attack you in the full court and half court. They kept coming, they're healthy and they're fresh right now. They're an impressive team."

The Dream (14-13), in contrast, haven't seen much go their way of late. Atlanta has dropped 12 of 16 dating to July 9, a stretch during which it has endured three four-game losing streaks. The Dream haven't lost five in a row since going 4-30 during their inaugural 2008 season.

They've been outscored by an average of 10.8 points during the current skid, including Saturday's 85-68 loss at Chicago. Alex Bentley had 19 points and Angel McCoughtry, leading the league with 21.8 points per game, finished with 17 off the bench.

McCoughtry, who didn't start due to an injured right ankle, was limited to 25 minutes. The Dream were also missing fellow starters Sancho Lyttle (foot) and Armintie Harrington (concussion), as well as reserve Tiffany Hayes (knee).

While McCoughtry figures to continue playing through her injury, Lyttle, Harrington and Hayes are all uncertain to be available.

"It hurts but everybody's banged up at this point of the season," McCoughtry said. "You've just got to try to dig deep and get through the game."

After watching the Sky lock up home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Dream are hoping to hold off Washington and Indiana for the No. 2 seed. Atlanta sits one game ahead of the Mystics and 1 1/2 in front of the Fever.

The Dream had taken six straight from Los Angeles before dropping the last two meetings, including a 77-73 road loss July 17. McCoughtry had a game-high 24 points and Erika de Souza added 15 with a season-best 18 boards, but Atlanta was limited to 35.6 percent shooting.

The Sparks have lost three straight at Philips Arena, falling 92-59 during their last visit June 15, 2012.

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