The Los Angeles Sparks are chasing the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and cannot afford more poor performances like their last, especially against yet another struggling opponent.
The Sparks look to get back on track after a sub-par defensive effort as they visit the Chicago Sky on Sunday night.Los Angeles had won nine in a row before a 99-85 loss to Tulsa on Thursday. The Sparks (19-7) gave up their most points of the season while being outscored 36-12 in the third period.Kristi Toliver scored 21 points and Candace Parker added 14, but the team combined for 18 turnovers, compounding a rare poor defensive effort. Los Angeles, which trails first-place Minnesota by 2 1/2 games in the West, allowed the Shock to shoot 51.4 percent and make 14 3-pointers after limiting opponents to 70.7 points per game during their winning streak.The Sparks now continue their five-game road trip in Chicago before visiting the Lynx on Tuesday. Los Angeles is 6-1 against teams from the Eastern Conference, giving up 70 or fewer points in four of those games.The Sparks have a good opportunity to bounce back Sunday, facing a struggling Chicago club trying to regroup from an 81-64 defeat Saturday to Indiana.The Sky (9-16), who have lost 11 of 12, are one-half game behind New York for the final playoff spot in the East as they try to claim their first playoff appearance in franchise history.Epiphanny Prince scored 22 points on 9-of-19 shooting, but the rest of the team shot 37.8 percent. Swin Cash went 1 of 6 and finished with two points."I thought they beat us to every loose ball," Prince said. "We didn't play defense like we're capable of. They seemed to get every shot that they threw up at the buzzer. We didn't take advantage of the switches on defense."Sylvia Fowles, who came in tied for the team lead with 17.6 points per game, went to the locker room in tears early in the third quarter with an apparent injury to her lower right leg. Fowles, who missed the previous two games for personal reasons, returned to the bench but did not play, finishing with two points and one rebound in 11 minutes.Turnovers continue to be a problem for Chicago, which had 21 Saturday and leads the league with 19.4 per game.The Sparks have won three straight over the Sky.