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Sparks hold off Mystics for first win of the season

Sparks forward Cameron Brink lunges for a loose ball against Mystics forward Aaliyah Edwards in the first half.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
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On one of the most critical possessions of the young Sparks season, Curt Miller sat still on the bench with his hands resting on his legs. When Cameron Brink blocked Shakira Austin’s final shot out of bounds, the normally animated Sparks head coach bolted out of his chair and waved his arms once through the air.

No more.

The Sparks survived a fourth-quarter comeback attempt to secure their first win of the season, holding off the Washington Mystics 70-68 on Tuesday at Walter Pyramid. The Sparks (1-2) avoided their first 0-3 start since 2015 behind a balanced but chaotic offense that had three double-digit scorers, 28 turnovers and 26 made field goals.

“We needed that one,” guard Lexie Brown said, “bad.”

Brown led the Sparks with 20 points and six assists but had seven turnovers.

After the Sparks let a nine-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate to one, Brown almost sealed the game with two free throws that put the team up by three with 14.7 seconds left. But the Mystics (0-4) scored quickly with a layup by Ariel Atkins. Sparks guard Kia Nurse made just one of two free throws with 7.6 seconds left, leaving the door ajar for the Mystics.

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Brink slammed it shut.

The No. 2 overall pick locked up Austin on Washington’s final possession, blocking a shot out of bounds. When referees put 0.3 seconds back on the clock after review, Brink stood strong again, not allowing Washington’s third-year forward to get off another shot after the final inbounds pass.

The crowd, waving green rally towels for the team’s mental health awareness game, rattled the Pyramid. After two games in Long Beach, the Sparks will return to their downtown home at Crypto.com Arena on Friday to host the Indiana Fever in rookie Caitlin Clark’s L.A. debut.

Brink finished with four points, eight rebounds and four blocks with only three fouls in a career-high 30 minutes. She had 11 blocks in her first three games.

Fellow rookie Rickea Jackson also played a season-best 31 minutes with nine points and three rebounds. The 6-foot-2 forward’s defensive versatility helped the Sparks win a key matchup against Karlie Samuelson. The former Sparks fan favorite who was the Mystics’ second-leading scorer was held to a season-low seven points.

The pair of lottery picks signal a new era for the Sparks, who are trying to end a three-year playoff drought. Six of the team’s 12 players are in their first seasons under Miller, who is continuing to uncover parts of his team each day.

“We’re young, we’re going to make mistakes,” Miller said. “We’re not going to look aesthetically great in the month of May, but we’ll get better and better. But I learned we have a tough group.”

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Dearica Hamby scored 14 of her 17 points in the third quarter to help the Sparks rally from a 36-32 halftime deficit. Despite missing five of her six shots, the forward pulled down 12 rebounds in the first half, en route to 18 boards, just one shy of her career high.

Before Sparks rookies Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson threw out ceremonial first pitches at Dodger Stadium on Monday, Shohei Ohtani gave Brink some advice.

May 21, 2024

The two-time WNBA sixth player of the year averaged 24.5 points in the first two games of the season. Eyeing her third All-Star selection in four years, Hamby was living up to her preseason goal of being the team’s best player.

She proved her status again in the third quarter.

The 10-year WNBA veteran scored eight points in a 14-5 Sparks run that began midway through the third quarter and wiped away a nine-point Washington lead. Hamby started the streak with back-to-back layups. When she missed a free throw, she grabbed the offensive rebound to score on a layup. Then she dished an assist to Nurse on the tying three-pointer with 2:22 left in the third quarter.

Nurse hit three key three-pointers in the second half to finish with 12 points.

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