Sparks coach Joe Bryant experiments with lineups, Silver Stars get road victory in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – Sparks Coach Joe Bryant turned his rotation upside down Monday night, in an attempt to shake his team out of a home court loss slump. But even double-digit scoring by four bench players wasn’t enough to stave off a Silver Stars 79-69 win.

Becky Hammon lead San Antonio with 26 points, and Sophia Young chipped in 18 points and 10 rebounds. Jia Perkins added 14.

Los Angeles fell behind early in the first quarter and continued to trail, shooting only 27.6 percent for the half. But the lineup that Bryant switched to in the second quarter was what he stuck with in the third: Natasha Lacy, Jantel Lavender, Jenna O’Hea, and rotating between LaToya Pringle, Delisha Milton-Jones and Kristi Toliver.

A Lacy driving layup and an O’Hea three-pointer got the Sparks within two at the end of the third quarter. Another Lacy layup cut the Silver Stars lead to 61-60 early in the fourth, but two consecutive shots by Young gave San Antonio a six-point edge, and Los Angeles never recovered.

Lacy and Lavender each finished with 14 points; O’Hea had 12 and Pringle put up 11. It was the second home loss for the Sparks in as many nights. Sunday they squandered a 24-point lead as the Washington Mystics rallied to win by four points.

Monday’s game was unusual in that starters Tina Thompson and Noelle Quinn were taken out of the game after playing 4:41, and they never returned. Neither scored a point, which was a first for 15-year veteran Thompson. Ticha Penicheiro played only 4:50, and scored three. The bulk of the minutes were played by Lacy – who hasn’t played much all season – and Lavender, a rookie.

"That unit played great," Bryant said of the bench players, who out-scored the starters 54-15. "I liked everything they did, and that’s why I came back in the third quarter and started them. In hindsight, I should have started that young group at the beginning of the game."

Bryant, who took over as head coach eight days ago, said he is still experimenting with lineups and hasn’t made any decisions as to who will be the starting five. He said the problem was that the Sparks were sluggish from the beginning.

"We started very slowly," he said.

Pringle acknowledged after the game that the number of shots the Sparks were missing was "very frustrating." Los Angeles, now 6-8, finished at 31.8 percent shooting on the night and had only 36 rebounds.

San Antonio, how 9-4, has one more game before the All-Star break this weekend. The Sparks’ next game is next Tuesday, in Minnesota.

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