10:30 PM ET, June 18, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
The Los Angeles Sparks are surely looking forward to getting back home after concluding a grueling stretch in disappointing fashion.A visit from the road-weary Washington Mystics could be coming at just the right time.The Sparks try to open 5-0 on their own court for the first time in six years Monday night against the Mystics, who begin a three-game trek hoping to avoid a 12th consecutive road loss.Winner of seven of its first eight games, Los Angeles (7-3) is coming off back-to-back defeats for the first time this year. One night after getting blown out 92-59 at Atlanta, the Sparks lost 98-85 in overtime to San Antonio on Saturday.While Alana Beard and former league MVP Candace Parker scored a combined 44 points, Los Angeles committed 19 turnovers and seemed a bit sluggish playing in its third game in four nights."I think that and a couple of other factors probably took a little wind out of our sails," coach Carol Ross said.The Sparks, though, have to like their chances of getting back on track at Staples Center. Los Angeles has thrived at home, where it's won all four games with holding opponents to an average of just 68.7 points. The Sparks haven't won their first five home games since a 7-0 start in 2006.Since pulling out an 89-85 overtime victory at Los Angeles last July 17 with Parker sidelined, the Mystics (2-5) have dropped 11 in a row in opposing arenas -- including a pair of road matchups this year versus Chicago and Connecticut.Washington, though, carries some momentum into this game after defeating Indiana 67-66 on Friday. The Mystics outrebounded the Fever 41-32 and snapped a season-worst four-game skid after withstanding a late rally."It happens when you play a great team. They're gonna respond," coach Trudi Lacey said. "They punched and we punched back. We got stops when we needed to and made plays down the stretch. That's what had been missing in these close losses."Crystal Langhorne continued her excellent play with 22 points and 13 rebounds. After averaging 13.5 points over her first four games, Langhorne has scored 23.6 per contest in her last three while shooting 63.0 percent from the floor.Shannon Bobbitt also came up big in her first game since signing with the Mystics last week, posting eight points and a game-high five assists in 19 minutes off the bench. Bobbitt spent the preseason with Indiana but was released prior to the start of the season."I always tell everyone, one team's trash is another team's treasure and I was just able to come out and compete against a team that cut me," she said."I try and provide a spark. I'm a spark player. I show a lot of leadership. It is my job to set the tempo offensively and defensively and provide a lot of energy and a lot of aggressiveness."Bobbitt could find extra motivation again versus a Sparks team that originally selected her in the second round of the 2008 draft.Los Angeles and Washington have split their last seven season series, with each team winning once.