Trying to outrun a running team seemed like a good idea for the Sparks against the Atlanta Dream.
But that game plan had a five-minute lifespan, apparently, and when it expired, the Sparks went with it as the Atlanta Dream ran them down and over, 101-82, on Sunday at Staples Center.
"We matched their energy in the first half and we were able to sustain their transition [offense], but in the second half we didn't come out with the energy we [needed], and it hurt us," Sparks Coach Jennifer Gillom said.
The Sparks, namely forward Tina Thompson, bulled past the svelte and speedy Dream to a 12-4 lead, with Thompson scoring eight quick points. But the Dream charged back and trailed by three at halftime.
In the third quarter, with the Sparks leading by one, the Dream used a 22-9 run to take a 73-61 lead into the fourth. From there, the Sparks (1-4) mostly spun in place while the Dream (6-0) pushed that lead to blowout levels.
"Starting in the third quarter, they made a little run … but we continued to let them impose their will against us and we didn't do anything about it," said Thompson, who scored 26 points.
Dream forward Angel McCoughtry, the No. 1 pick in the 2009 WNBA draft, scored 32 points for the second time this season. Forward Iziane Castro Marques added 24 and Sancho Lyttle scored 19.
"We came out stagnant in the third quarter — offensively, defensively, everything," said Sparks forward Candace Parker, who finished with a season-high 33 points, along with 12 rebounds and a career-high-tying six blocks. "That's been a trend that's happened the last two games that we have to fix."
It was pretty much a two-player show for the Sparks led by Parker, who had her fifth double-double, and Thompson. Nobody else scored in double figures. Noelle Quinn's six points were the closest. The Sparks' 18 turnovers, to Atlanta's nine, also hurt, helping give the Dream a 15-2 advantage in fastbreak points.
Gillom said she warned her players at halftime that they would have to come out with energy in the second half.
Why didn't that happen?
"I don't know," Gillom said.
The Sparks can ponder that in Phoenix against the Mercury on Friday before they play the Seattle Storm on Saturday in the Sparks' first outdoor game, which will be held in Carson at Home Depot Center's tennis stadium.
Both of those opponents beat the Sparks in succession to start the season.