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Atlanta pins bad loss on Sparks

September 12, 2008|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

In a season of tremendous highs and extreme lows, the Sparks reached new depths Thursday night.

Playing an expansion team that had lost 10 straight games and 29 of 32 coming into the game, the Sparks fell apart during the fourth quarter, much the way they've done on a number of occasions this season, and lost to the Atlanta Dream, 83-72, at Staples Center.

With the loss, the Sparks ended any hope of securing home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

Instead, they will finish no better than third in the Western Conference and will open the playoffs Thursday at home against either second-place Seattle or first-place San Antonio.

"We didn't respect them," Sparks center Lisa Leslie said. "That's really all you can say."

The Sparks front line of Leslie, Candace Parker and DeLisha Milton-Jones combined to score 60 of their team's 72 points, but it wasn't enough as the Dream rallied from a six-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to win going away.

Parker finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, Milton-Jones had 21 points and seven rebounds and Leslie contributed 16 points and nine rebounds but committed six turnovers to increase her league-leading total to 118.

"Just based on my experience, we can't dwell on this," Parker said.

"Teams I've played on in the past, this could be the best thing for us."

The Sparks (19-14) initially let the game get away at the start of the second quarter, getting outscored, 16-2, to fall behind, 38-24.

They cut the deficit to seven by halftime, then moved ahead by two points at the end of the third.

Sidney Spencer scored the first four points of the final quarter to give the Sparks a 63-57 lead, and it appeared they were finally on their way to victory.

But the Dream pulled even with the Sparks midway through the final quarter and then strung together a 12-2 run to give them a 79-69 lead with 2:12 left.

Margo Dydek, the 7-2 center from Poland who was signed two weeks ago, made her first appearance for the Sparks, but like the rest of the reserves, contributed very little.

Outside of Leslie, Parker and Milton-Jones, the remaining Sparks combined for 12 points on five-for-24 shooting.

Iziane Castro Marques scored 23 points to lead Atlanta and Betty Lennox had 21.

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dan.arritt@latimes.com

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