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Sparks look to avenge Friday's loss to Wings

It's a WNBA season that so far has been about anybody being able to beat anybody -- with the exception of the Lynx, who have yet to lose, and the Stars, who have yet to win. The defending champion Sparks have lost three times, all on the road.

So they're glad to be in Los Angeles for a three-game stretch -- starting Tuesday when they host the Wings (ESPN2, 10 p.m. ET) -- not just for the home crowd, but the opportunity to get in more practice.

The Sparks' losses were all by single digits -- by three points in Indiana, two in Atlanta and six in Dallas -- and in each case they could pick out some key mistakes or letdowns that made the difference.

"It's always nice to play at home," Sparks forward and 2016 league MVP Nneka Ogwumike said. "But for us, developing that chemistry with consistent practices at home is really going to help us in the long run."

The Sparks are coming off a very good game at Phoenix on Saturday, as all five starters scored in double figures in an 89-87 win over the Mercury. Guard Chelsey Gray led Los Angeles with 24 points (8-of-13 shooting) and eight assists in her best all-around performance of the season.

That was a bounce back from Friday's loss at Dallas, when forward Glory Johnson's big night (24 points, 12 rebounds) helped the Wings prevail. Dallas outscored Los Angeles 32-19 in the fourth quarter.

Not surprisingly, Ogwumike said stamina is the one thing that stands out to her about the Wings.

"They have a lot of young, talented players," she said. "And those types of players can withstand lulls, and then come back and get you. I think that's kind of what we experienced."

Much has been made of the Wings' youth, and the injuries that have limited their depth, with players like 6-foot-4 center Courtney Paris and 6-0 guard Aerial Powers out.

"I think we've dealt with [the injuries] for so long that we know we just have to find ways to win," Dallas forward Karima Christmas-Kelly said. "We have to try to box people out and play to get steals. But our team always has a lot of grit and fight; we're never out of the game."

Christmas-Kelly is second on the Wings in scoring (13.0) behind Skylar Diggins-Smith (15.0), and ahead of Johnson (12.6) and rookies Allisha Gray (12.3) and Kaela Davis (8.6).

Christmas-Kelly credits her increased WNBA playing time the past three years, competing overseas and her offseason training sessions with her husband for helping boost her offense. Known primarily as a defensive player, she has definitely advanced on the other end of the court.

"I think I need to be more of a leader as far as setting an example for our team to be a better rebounding team." Los Angeles' Nneka Ogwumike

The Wings know the Sparks will be especially eager to avenge their Friday loss, and part of that effort will be defending and rebounding better. You wouldn't think Los Angeles would lose the battle on the boards to Dallas without Paris, but they did 34-29, thanks in large part to Johnson.

"When you talk about rebounding, what comes to my mind is the Atlanta game and the Dallas game," Ogwumike said. "Possessions matter. Even if you don't score, it takes time away from the other team to do something on the offensive end.

"That is a fundamental skill; rebounding is all about effort. I think I need to be more of a leader as far as setting an example for our team to be a better rebounding team."