Surging Sparks eye fifth straight victory

National Sports

There were a lot of reasons the Los Angeles Sparks could have given in on Sunday at the start of a long road trip.

Brooklyn’s Barclays Center was shut down to fans and media, except for TV, because of Tropical Storm Henri that was drenching New York City. The New York Liberty drilled a franchise-record 16 3-pointers and owned an 11-point lead late in the third quarter. The breaks weren’t going their way.

But Los Angeles leashed together a 25-11 run in the last 11 minutes to wipe out the double-figure deficit and post an 86-83 win, their fourth straight. It puts them in playoff position entering Tuesday night’s visit to the Washington Mystics.

At 10-13, the Sparks are eighth in the league, a half-game ahead of Dallas. And while none of their wins lately have come easy or have been against elite teams, they have still been wins. And at this stage of the year, that’s what matters.

“We’re on the road for 15 days, so mentally, you have to be sharp,” guard Erica Wheeler said to the Los Angeles Daily News. “To start it off with a win, it’s going to carry over and it’s going to be good for us.”

Wheeler’s 17 points led a balanced attack on Sunday. Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver each added 16. Ogwumike paces Los Angeles with 15.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

Meanwhile, Washington (8-14) is desperate for wins. It trails the Sparks by 1 1/2 games for the final playoff spot after Sunday’s 85-78 home loss to Seattle. But the news wasn’t all bad for the Mystics.

That’s because two-time league Most Valuable Player Elena Della Donne returned to action after missing 22 months with a career-threatening back injury that required two surgeries. Della Donne scored 16 points in 22 minutes, going 5-of-11 from the field.

Her presence will make opponents choose between doubling her or current league scoring leader Tina Charles, who’s averaging 25.4 ppg and 9.7 rebounds. Charles tallied 20 points on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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