Atlanta stages late comeback to defeat Los Angeles, 76-72
The Atlanta Dream (7-8) overcame a fourth quarter 11-point deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Sparks, 76-72, Thursday afternoon at the Staples Center. Both teams came into the game at the bottom of their respective conferences.
Led by Angel McCoughtry’s 22 points and five rebounds, the Dream managed eke out a victory on the road, their second contest in a three-game road trip out West.
At the outset the Sparks looked as if they were going to dominate as they earned a 13-point lead in the first quarter after trailing by six early in the game. They had a 25-17 advantage after the first quarter even as starting center Marianna Tolo sat due to foul trouble. She earned three fouls in the first quarter.
Starting guard Erin Phillips also racked up three fouls in the first half and sat for several minutes in the second quarter. The Dream outscored the Sparks 18-10 before the break and the teams went into the locker room tied.
In the third quarter, the Dream raced out to a five point lead but the Sparks fought back and engaged in a back and forth contest that ended with Los Angeles ahead by four to end the quarter, 56-52.
A balanced effort from several Sparks’ players gave the team an 11-point lead at 7:46. However, Los Angeles could not sustain the momentum. With about two minutes left, the Dream tied the game after Tiffany Hayes made two free throws. A layup from Aneika Henry and free throws from McCoughtry sealed the deal for Atlanta and the Sparks lost their fifth straight game.
Other Dream players in double figures included Henry (16 points, four rebounds) and Hayes (11 points, four rebounds). Henry’s scoring effort was a career-high.
Jantel Lavender led the Sparks with 20 points and 11 rebounds. It was her eighth double-double in 14 games played. She is tied for first in the WNBA for most double-doubles this season
Nneka Ogwumike finished with 19 points and six rebounds, her 10th consecutive double-figure scoring performance
Atlanta travels to Seattle to face the Storm on Saturday. Los Angeles will host the Phoenix Mercury next Tuesday, July 21.
- The Sparks outscored the Dream in the paint, 42-32. Los Angeles handed out 21 assists compared to Atlanta’s 12.
- The Sparks were 0-8 from the three-point line compared to Atlanta shooting 21.4% (3-14) from beyond the arc.
- All five Sparks starters scored in the game. With today’s game, Lavender now ranks third all-time in franchise history for most consecutive games played, passing former Sparks Nikki Teasley (119) with 120 consecutive games played (09/03/11 – current).
- The Dream’s victory moves them out of last place and above the Washington Mystics, with a 7-8 overall record
- Atlanta snapped a three game road losing streak that stretched since its defeat against the Washington Mystics on June 12
- Angel McCoughtry has scored in double-figures in 15 consecutive games this season
Sparks head coach Brian Agler
On the team’s consistency
“I thought that, offensively, we scored consistently and we didn’t turn the ball over as much. Atlanta will really force turnovers and we were much better at handling that so we gave ourselves a chance to score. Then defensively we stuck to the game plan besides giving up some offensive boards late.“
On Lavender’s final shot
“I feel bad for her. But it was a good shot and we wanted her to take it. We’ll live with that and that’s a part of competition. You put people out there and you live with the results. Would we take that shot again? Absolutely.”
Sparks forward Jantel Lavender
Overall thoughts on the game
“I thought we had a sense of urgency. The first half wasn’t so great because we weren’t making shots, but we were still playing defense. In the second half I thought we came out really hard and were playing with a purpose. We were getting fast break points and doing the things that we were missing in other games but down the stretch it just got away from us. We let a couple people get loose and they got in their comfort zone and started making shots.”
On the Angel McCoughtry’s play
“Overall I think we did a pretty good job on her. We tried to make her play into congestion but obviously she’s a great player so she’s going to get some shots. We were trying to force her to take shots that she isn’t very comfortable with and I think we did a really good job with that. When she starts facilitating and getting in the lane, that’s when it gets hard. We have to draw help and then it’s an open layup for someone else. We just have to do better at keeping her out of her comfort zone and playing better defense as a team.“
Sparks forward Nneka Owumike
On close back-to-back performances
“[There was] more aggressive play on defense and offense. Offensively, we did a good job attacking throughout. I’m happy we were able to recognize defensively. It’s not easy with all the variables and getting back here and getting right to the game. We did a good job staying aggressive, it’s just down the stretch we had to make a few plays we just weren’t able to capitalize on it.”
On how to stay consistent
“Just remaining poised. I think a lot of times we try to stay aggressive, at times, especially in the home stretch of the game. People start to lose focus we did a little more in this sense more mentally than physically. I think we did a good job of staying aggressive and making good plays on the offense.”
Dream head coach Michael Cooper
“What a game. This was the start of a road trip for us after we lost on the road to Phoenix. We were right there in the thick of things and tonight’s win was a good victory for us.”
On the team’s difference in the final minutes
“[The difference] was our ability to stay in the game. Over our last few games, it seemed as if we were close in games and we would just fall apart by not playing defense and not scoring. Today, I tried to encourage them to stay in the last few minutes. They were already motivating each other in the huddle and I liked that. I think it’s crucial to win close games like that when we have people hitting shots, rebounding, and playing defense.
Dream forward Angel McCoughtry
On the final run in the fourth quarter
“It’s a game of runs. Teams will get on runs. We just can’t back off and get frustrated. We have to keep fighting and that’s what we did.”
On the team’s resilience
“I’ve just learned through experience to keep my poise throughout the game. I just told our team that we have to take it. We just had to keep fighting. This was an ugly win but we’ll take it.
On playing against Nneka Ogwumike
“I love Nneka [Ogwumike] to death. I really respect her game and she always plays hard. It’s tough to play against her. She’s so athletic. At one point in the game, I thought I was going to grab a rebound and she just came out of nowhere to tip the rebound back to herself. I know the Sparks haven’t had the season that they wanted, they still have a great team and have nothing to be discouraged about.
By the Numbers
Points in the Paint: Dream 32, Sparks 42
Second Chance Points: Dream 18, Sparks 4
Fastbreak Points: Dream 5, Sparks 6
Biggest Lead: Dream 6, Sparks 13
Lead Changes: 6
Times Tied: 7