Sparks can’t hold off Mystics’ late surge, extend losing streak to eight games

Aari McDonald drives to the basket for the Sparks.
The Sparks’ Aari McDonald scored 17 points during her team’s loss to the Washington Mystics on Tuesday at Arena.
(Juan Ocampo / NBAE / Getty Images)
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It isn’t over until it’s over.

For roughly 38 minutes, the Sparks and their jubilant home crowd thought they had it. After seven consecutive devastating losses on the road, along with myriad injuries, the Sparks finally were going to get a win. Until they didn’t.

Despite holding a 12-point lead after three quarters and a season-best night by Stephanie Talbot, the short-handed Sparks couldn’t hold off the Washington Mystics in the final minutes Tuesday at Arena, losing 82-80 and extending their losing streak to eight games.

“We did a lot of good things in stretches, but that’s not going to feel good because of the fourth quarter and ultimately the loss,” Sparks coach Curt Miller said. “There’s a razor-thin line between winning and losing in this league and with our youth and injuries it’s even thinner. You watched that thin line evaporate in the fourth quarter and it’s disappointing because we played well enough early to be in control of that game in the fourth.”


Rookie Rickea Jackson scores seven of her 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Sparks hold off a late surge from the Las Vegas Aces in a 96-92 victory.

June 9, 2024

The night was highlighted by the announcement that Sparks forward Dearica Hamby was named to the WNBA All-Star roster for the third time. The All-Star game against the U.S. Olympic team will be held at Footprint Center in Phoenix on July 20.

Top draft pick Cameron Brink (season-ending injury), Lexie Brown (Crohn’s disease) and Azurá Stevens (left arm injury) all missed Tuesday’s game, so Talbot got her her second start of the season and scored a season-high 17 points with eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. Before the game, Miller wasn’t even sure Talbot would play because of an ankle sprain. She ended up playing 30 minutes.

“It was a game-time decision on if she could even play,” Miller said. “Really proud of her grittiness throughout the game. She is our energy, our glue player right now, we put her in the starting lineup recently just to get the energy that we have. We were scheming a certain way against their offense and she was a big part of that defensive approach.”

Sparks rookie Cameron Brink suffered a torn ACL in a loss to the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night. The injury typically ends a player’s season.

June 19, 2024

Aari McDonald also scored 17 points, her second most of the season, and delivered six assists. The Sparks shot 28 for 60 from the field while the Mystics shot 23 for 67. Myisha Hines-Allen led Washington with 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Julie Vanloo contributed 15 points.

The Sparks got off to a hot start, something they have struggled to do, and led for most of the night. Talbot opened the contest with a three-pointer from deep, while rookie Rickea Jackson led the Sparks with seven points and two assists in the first period. Jackson finished with 12 points, five rebounds and four assists.

While the Sparks led by as many as eight in the first half, the Mystics quickly closed the gap in the final minutes of the second quarter to tie the game 36-36. However, a 5-0 Sparks run put them back on top 43-38 to end the half.


Talbot led the way with 12 points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals and three-for-three shooting from three-point range.

The Sparks’ momentum continued with an 8-0 run to open the second half, with five points coming from Jackson, to extend their lead to 13 points. The Sparks continued to dominate the paint and led by 12 entering the last period.

Sisters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike have become leading voices for women in sports and social justice advocacy.

June 30, 2024

But the Mystics were not done, going on a 14-2 run to open the fourth quarter. After Jade Melborne tied the game at 66, the Sparks began to play with urgency.

Despite five points by McDonald in 67 seconds and multiple free-throw opportunities, the Sparks lost their lead for the first time since the opening minutes with 2:55 left in the game and trailed 75-74. Kia Nurse answered with a three, but Stefanie Dolson’s three-point play with 1:18 left gave the Mystics the lead for good. Talbot hit a three at the buzzer, but the Sparks fell short.

As their lead grew smaller and smaller in the fourth quarter, it was up to veterans like Hamby to keep her teammates confident.

“This league doesn’t stop for anybody,” Hamby said. “With four minutes left I told the team to be composed, don’t play like we are down but run the clock and be smart about that. We just couldn’t do it but we have to move on.”


The Sparks continue a three-game homestand against the Las Vegas Aces on Friday at Arena.