Sparks-Mystics Preview

The Associated Press

Playing without an injured Candace Parker, the Los Angeles Sparks dropped the opener of a season-high five-game road trip.

While they were still able to get their offense going, her absence left a big hole defensively.

With Parker's status uncertain, the Sparks try to shore up their defensive issues when they face the struggling Washington Mystics on Sunday.

Parker was named All-Star game MVP after scoring 23 points in last Saturday's exhibition, but an injured right wrist prevented her from taking the court in Los Angeles' first game after the break. All-Star Kristi Toliver had 23 points and Nneka Ogwumike scored 17, but the Sparks (12-7) couldn't keep up with Tulsa in Friday's 96-89 loss.

Los Angeles allowed the Shock to shoot 53.2 percent and make 7 of 13 3-pointers as Tulsa came within one point of matching the highest output allowed by the Sparks this season.

"We battled. It's hard to find a way to replace someone like Candace,'' Los Angeles coach Carol Ross said.

Parker had 20 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in a 79-69 home win over Mystics on June 23, but it was Lindsey Harding who led the way. Harding, who averages 11.8 points, scored a season-high 22 and had seven assists and four steals to guide the Sparks to a third straight victory in the series.

Even if Parker can't go, Los Angeles might have better luck against a Washington team that has had both trouble offensively and in the interior.

The Mystics (9-11) have dropped four of five, averaging 69.5 points in the losses. In a pair of defeats since the break, Washington has been outrebounded 76-65 and outscored 92-54 in the paint.

The Mystics also couldn't take advantage of facing a Chicago team playing without leading scorer Elena Delle Donne, Carolyn Swords and Sharnee Zoll-Norman, falling 85-78 on Friday.

Matee Ajavon had a team-high 19 points but also turned the ball over six times for Washington, which committed 13 of its 19 turnovers after halftime.

"We took care of the ball in the first half,'' Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. "We didn't turn it over much. ... But in the second half, we had some major turnovers and, apparently, we foul a lot. I don't know what the difference is, but apparently we must.''

Washington turned the ball over 20 times at Staples Center in June, with Monique Currie responsible for five and Ajavon four. All-Star guard Ivory Latta only had one turnover but was limited to a season-low five points on 2-of-8 shooting.

She was 3 of 10 from the field for seven points Friday.

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