Clarendon’s triple-double not enough as Sparks lose to Dream

WNBA

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The Los Angeles Sparks started their season with a 92-81 home loss against the Atlanta Dream in front of a packed house at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach.

The Sparks were in the game until a 9-0 run to start the fourth quarter, which resulted in the Dream separating themselves, securing the lead, and winning the game.

Despite the loss, LA performed well. Layshia Clarendon had her first triple-double of her career with 11 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. Kia Nurse led the team with 23 points and five 3-pointers. Dearica Hamby had a double-double with 20 points and 14 rebounds. LA’s star rookies performed well, with Cameron Brink starting, scoring 11 points and rejecting two shots. Rickea Jackson scored seven points from off the bench.

The defeat was disappointing but not discouraging, as the team wasn’t far from winning. However, things only get harder from here as the Sparks hit the road to face the Las Vegas Aces this weekend.

In the opening quarter, Nurse got going immediately, scoring seven points, and Los Angeles was off to a strong start. The bench struggled, ending the quarter with zero points, but everything was even at 26 points after 10 minutes of play. The rest of the first half demonstrated this team’s strengths and weaknesses. The Sparks were able to keep up with the Dream offensively but were careless with the ball, turning it over eight times. Defending the 3-point shot was also an issue, as they allowed Atlanta to shoot 57 percent from the field, and Tina Charles was doing whatever she pleased, going 7-for-9 from the field, good for 17 first-half points.

The third quarter featured both teams going on separate runs that could’ve turned the tide of the game, but each time, the opposing team responded with a run of their own. Things were all square after three quarters, thanks to Jackson’s buzzer-beating layup.

In the fourth, the game collapsed for the Spark. They went with a primarily backup unit, and the Dream took advantage. Atlanta went on a 9-0 run, and both their stars, Charles and Rhyne Howard, were as dominant as ever. Howard ended the night with 25 points, and Charles had a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds.

The Sparks tried to rally back with six minutes remaining but never closed the gap in any significant way. Nurse hit a 3-pointer to end the scoring drought, Brink had a couple of nice baskets, and Dearica Hamby was able to grab five of her 14 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough, as the Sparks dropped the season opener.

Depending on your perspective, this result is either glass half full or half empty for Los Angeles. The promise was displayed on the development side, with the young players looking good and the starters playing well. From a results perspective, it was a loss against a fringe playoff team, meaning the Sparks are in the same spot they found themselves in the last three seasons, fighting not to be a bottom-four team.

It is too early to assume which side this team will be on in the long term, but head coach Curt Miller will have to balance a young and learning team with finding success in a results-driven league.

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