Sparks are dominated by the undermanned Lynx, losing for the tenth time in the last eleven games – Daily Breeze

Sparks are dominated by the undermanned Lynx, losing for the tenth time in the last eleven games – Daily Breeze

LOS ANGELES — Despite coach Curt Miller’s warning, the Sparks appeared to come into the game lacking energy, struggled on offense and quickly fell behind by double digits in the first quarter. They fought back and got within five points in the second quarter, but the comeback was not sustainable. It was too little, too late.

The Sparks trailed by 25 points in the third quarter and suffered an 82-67 loss to the shorthanded Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday night at Arena.

Sparks All-Star forward Dearica Hamby scored 18 points and eight rebounds in 37 minutes, the most of the game. Hamby was the only Spark to score in double figures.

The Sparks (5-17) have lost 10 of their last 11 games, including an 0-3 loss to the Lynx (16-6) this season. The Sparks, who had 20 turnovers and never had a lead, will finish the 40-game regular season on Sept. 19 at Minnesota.

Bridget Carleton scored 16 points and Dorka Juhasz added 15 for Minnesota, which played without injured MVP candidate Napheesa Collier, the team’s leading scorer (20 points per game) and rebounder (10.2 points per game). Minnesota (16-6) has won its last seven games at Arena and 13 of its last 14 meetings with the Sparks overall.

“Our lead is small and therefore we can’t worry about effort and energy in the games when we should be spending our time on strategies for offense and defense,” Miller said before the game.

The Sparks, however, did not heed Miller’s message and trailed 29-16 at the end of the first quarter. Minnesota took control early by converting 11 of its first 16 shots, with nine players scoring, while the Sparks sank 3 of 12 field goals.

The Sparks performed better in the second quarter. Hamby’s three-pointer cut the deficit to 37-32, but the Lynx responded with a 10-1 run to take a 47-33 lead late in the first half, highlighted by back-to-back three-pointers from All-Star guard Kayla McBride and Canadian Olympian Carleton.

Carleton finished the night with 4 of 4 three-point shots, the Lynx made 9 of 18 three-point shots and the Sparks made 3 of 20.

The Sparks trailed 51-35 at halftime and 70-51 at the end of the third quarter.

Sophomore forward Juhász started in place of Collier (left foot) and scored 11 of her 15 points in the first half. McBride and Lynx substitute Cecilia Zandalasini each scored 11 points.

For the first time this season, center Azurá Stevens was in the Sparks’ starting lineup, replacing the injured Stephanie Talbot (right foot), one of three players now sidelined, including Cameron Brink (ACL) and Lexie Brown (Crohn’s disease). Stevens finished the game with a season-high nine points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots in 28 minutes.

Miller, who had an 0-7 record against the Lynx in his two seasons as coach of the Sparks, knew that attacking Minnesota’s defense would require more than just energy and effort.

“Minnesota is analytically superior defensively,” Miller said. “They’re not an easy opponent. In my opinion, they’re the best team right now when it comes to clogging the zone.”

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve knew she had to rely on her defense to beat the Sparks.

“Like any away game, we know our defense gets us through the home team’s toughest moments. So we try to limit the big runs because we’re locked in defensively. That’s always our mindset,” Reeve said before the game.