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L.A. Has No Spark at End

Times Staff Writer

The Sparks are about to get their first extended break in the 2003 season. And it couldn’t come at a better time.

There are going to be games when the Sparks can’t overcome their shortcomings and lose, as they did Saturday night in a 69-60 loss to Sacramento before 10,102 at Staples Center.

Coach Michael Cooper, who wore a microphone during the game for television, had little to say afterward.

“A team that you beat [often] is bound to get a win,” Cooper said. “But they came in and worked hard for it. They wanted the game a little more and they pursued the basketball better.”

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Expect Cooper to have plenty to say during the week or practice. And the Sparks know it.

Although L.A. can take comfort in a 12-3 record, the team has lost its last two at home.

On Saturday, L.A. made only two of 16 three-point attempts, had 17 turnovers, watched Sacramento forward Yolanda Griffith (24 points, 10 rebounds) dominate the second half, and didn’t have a key defensive stop in the final eight minutes.

That gave Los Angeles, which had 20 points from Tamecka Dixon and 16 from Lisa Leslie, something to think about afterward.

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“I wouldn’t say this is time off; we’re just not playing games. But you can bet Coop is going to have us in the gym and we’re going to be up to our necks in basketball,” said DeLisha Milton, who had 13 points and nine rebounds before being ejected after a skirmish with Griffith in the final minute.

“We have to get refocused. To lose two games at home ... is uncharacteristic of the Sparks. We have to get back to basics; stop trying to fix what’s right in front of us and get back to basics.”

When asked if the team could use time off to recharge, Leslie said: “We’ll see. But ... we’ve already been on the road so much I don’t think we’ve found our rhythm at home yet. We might get one day off. But [the coaches] probably feel we need to work harder in practice.”

Something had to change after the first half because neither team could establish a rhythm. Unless you consider 30% field-goal percentages and a combined 18 turnovers (12 by L.A.) a rhythm.

Sacramento (6-8) edged to a 24-21 halftime lead because Griffith made the last four points on a 15-foot jump shot and two free throws. But it also found a level of confidence it didn’t normally have, having lost its last 10 regular-season games to the Sparks.

“We know they’re a great team, but they’re also beatable,” said Sacramento forward Tangela Smith, who had seven points. “We needed this win because we know we shouldn’t be a 6-8 team. We’ve let little things get to us. Hopefully this win can get us going.”

No matter the outcome, Cooper was not going to play Mwadi Mabika.

Mwadi, slowed because of an injury to her right leg, has not started the last three games. With the Sparks having six days off before facing Seattle, Cooper said it was time to get Mwadi rest and rehabilitation.

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“I now think this playing her part-time is doing her more harm than good,” said Cooper, who has resisted the temptation to put Mwadi on the injured list. “So we will gear everything for her being ready for Seattle. But if she needs more time, we will give her more time.”

Sophia Witherspoon started in place of Mwadi.


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