The Sparks saw their opponents’ star post player ejected from a close game just before halftime, but still did not take control against the Dallas Wings at Staples Center on Thursday.
Instead, Dallas produced a 21-2 fourth-quarter run without Liz Cambage to defeat the Sparks 92-77.
“In the first half, we hung around and did a decent job,” head coach Brian Agler said. “In the second half, we just didn’t have that aggression.”
Candace Parker scored 21 points for the Sparks (13-9), but Dallas got 22 points and 11 assists from Skylar Diggins-Smith and rookie Azura Stevens had 16 points off the bench for the Wings (12-8).
The Sparks lost for the fourth time in five games. Veteran Wing Alana Beard left the game in the first half because of a groin strain.
After taking an early 9-4 lead, the Wings were up by 10 points midway through the second quarter until two three-pointers from Riquna Williams. Three minutes before halftime, Maria Vadeeva hit a jumper to put Los Angeles ahead, but Cambage answered on the next possession. However, the 6-foot-8 Wings center was ejected for a gesture toward the game officials immediately after scoring.
In the absence of Cambage — the Wings’ leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker for both the season and the game up to that point — the Sparks may have hoped to take control, but Stevens stepped up inside for Dallas, who held a 69-65 lead entering the fourth quarter with the help of Stevens’ eight points in the period.
“They made adjustments,” Williams said. “I don’t know if I’d call it a small lineup or a big lineup, but they made adjustments and it was very effective.”
Williams struck from deep to put Los Angeles within one, but the Wings dominated late, leading by as many as 20 inside the final two minutes before the Sparks scored five points to finish the game at 92-77.
The defeat knocks Los Angeles back to sixth in the WNBA standings, but still 3 1/2 games ahead of the Las Vegas Aces, the last team out of the playoffs. The Sparks will travel to Las Vegas this weekend to play the Aces on Sunday.