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Jun 27, 2024 8:51 pm

Sparks visit Mercury, desperate to avoid 0-7 road trip

dearica hamby

The Los Angeles Sparks visit the Phoenix Mercury on Friday, hoping to leave behind the lengthy losing streak that sent them into their six-day layoff.

“There’s got to be an urgency,” Sparks coach Curt Miller said after Los Angeles’ most recent outing, a 98-88 loss at New York on Saturday. “We need to have the urgency and the competitiveness to grow.”

The contest Friday is the finale of a seven-game trip for Los Angeles (4-13), which began on June 11. The 95-79 setback that night at Seattle kicked off the Sparks’ six-game skid.

“Going back to Minnesota, teams are starting to scout us differently,” Dearica Hamby said. “There’s heavy congestion (in the paint).”

Hamby recorded double-doubles in 11 of the season’s first 13 games, but heads into Phoenix having gone four consecutive games without another. She scored 10 points at Atlanta on June 16, eight points at Connecticut on June 18 and nine points at New York on June 20. Hamby, who is averaging 17.8 points, came back to score 20 in the Sparks’ second game against New York on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Hamby and the rest of the Sparks must adjust without fellow frontcourt presence Cameron Brink. The rookie forward, whose 2.3 blocked shots per game helped key the Los Angeles interior defense, sustained a torn ACL at Connecticut.

Phoenix (8-8) allowed 23 points to Hamby when the teams last met on June 2, but limited her to four rebounds — 6.5 fewer than her per-game average for the campaign. Diana Taurasi’s 7-of-9 3-point shooting en route to 31 points paced the Mercury to an 87-68 rout of the Sparks in that contest.

Taurasi, who is in her 20th season, is one of three Phoenix scorers averaging 16.3 points per game or more. She joins Brittney Griner, who is posting 19.5 points per game, and Kahleah Copper, who ranks third in the league as of Thursday at 22.6 points per game.

Copper’s 30-point game in an 87-78 win over Seattle on June 16 marked the fifth time Copper went for at least 30 this season.

Phoenix is also getting 10.8 ppg from Natasha Cloud, part of her outstanding all-around play to help pace the Mercury. Her 7.1 assists per game are second in the league, and Cloud is also averaging 1.6 steals per game.

“Of course she’s an All-Star,” Phoenix teammate Rebecca Allen said of Cloud. “For me, it goes beyond stats. There’s something about leadership that never (gets) noticed on a stat sheet; that person who brings everyone together.”

–Field Level Media

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