Sparks, Dream try to bounce back from losses

Two teams that squandered big leads in their last games will collide Saturday, when the defending champion Los Angeles Sparks visit the Atlanta Dream at McCamish Pavilion.

The Sparks (2-1) squandered a 14-point lead in a 93-90 loss to the Indiana Fever on Wednesday. Los Angeles took a 55-41 lead into halftime against the Fever, but were outscored 27-10 in the third quarter and were unable to pull out the win in the fourth quarter, despite shooting 54.8 percent from the field for the game.

Forward Nneka Oguwmike led all scorers with 24 points and forward Candace Parker recorded a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebound, but it wasn't enough, as the Sparks suffered their first loss of the season.

The Fever considered it a major victory.

"L.A., to me, is like the Golden State Warriors," Fever coach Pokey Chatman said, according to the Indianapolis Star. "People forget they're the best defensive team in the league as well as the best offensive."

The Dream (2-1) also dropped their first game of the season their last time out. Atlanta jumped on the Chicago Sky early last Sunday, racing out to a 24-14 lead after the first quarter. But the Dream went cold in the second quarter, scoring just eight points en route to a disappointing 75-71 loss to the Sky.

"I think the last game we were really, really up and down and trying to make adjustments within the game," Atlanta guard Meighan Simmons said this week. "I think we just need to be mentally focused to from beginning to end."

Point guard Layshia Clarendon and Tiffany Hayes each scored 17 points to lead the Dream in the loss. Hayes, who leads the team in scoring, injured her ankle on the final possession of the game against Chicago. Hayes was listed as day-to-day on Friday.

Clarendon was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the first time in her career, after averaging 16.3 points and 6.0 assists in her first three games of the young season.

Parker is off to a strong start to the season for the Sparks, averaging 18.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Combined with Ogwumike, Parker gives Los Angeles an advantage over the Dream in the paint.

Atlanta won two of last season's three meetings with the Sparks, including a streak-stopping victory on July 17. Los Angeles won 20 of its first 21 games last season, tying the 1998 Houston Comets for the best start in WNBA history. But the Dream knocked off the Sparks 91-74 in their 22nd game.

"It's going to be a physical ballgame so we just have to come in that mindset and be ready to play," Dream guard Brian Holmes said. "Don't let anyone come into our house and take advantage."

Sparks point guard Odyssey Sims sat out the loss to Indiana with an ankle injury, and there is no word on her status for the game against Atlanta. She was acquired in a trade with Dallas during the offseason.

"This is a great opportunity for me," Sims told the Los Angeles Times earlier this month. "I'm in a better situation, and I'm just really excited to be here. Not just to be in California, but to actually be playing for L.A. They just won a championship, and Brian (Agler), he knows what he's talking about."