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Depleted Sparks can’t keep pace with Las Vegas Aces in loss

Sparks center Amanda Zahui B. gestures  against the Indiana Fever.
Sparks center Amanda Zahui B., shown here playing against the Indiana Fever on June 3, scored 22 points in a loss to the Las Vegas Aces on Wednesday.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

By the end, even the mascot couldn’t watch any longer.

As the Las Vegas Aces put the finishing touches on a dominant 99-75 victory over the Sparks on Wednesday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the Sparks mascot Sparky, a fuzzy dog dressed in a basketball jersey and shorts, covered his eyes and looked away.

He didn’t miss much from his home team.

The Sparks (6-9) had no answers for the Aces, the team that leads the league in offensive rating and is second in defensive rating. Reigning MVP A’ja Wilson (17 points, 10 rebounds) and 6-foot-8 Australian Olympian Liz Cambage (13 points, 11 rebounds) overpowered the undersized L.A. frontcourt.

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Amanda Zahui B. was the Sparks’ best threat on offense with 22 points but scored 18 of her points in the first half as her shorthanded team wore down.

“Defensively, over the course of the game, we just kind of start to split and spread out,” head coach Derek Fisher said. “The fatigue starts to set in with the short rotation. When shots aren’t going in, especially shots you think should go in, it just started to drain your energy.”

Despite a slew of personnel transactions that resulted in three signings announced Wednesday, the Sparks did “some pretty decent” things on offense, Fisher said. It didn’t show in the box score as the team missed point-blank layups and open three-pointers, resulting in 34.1% shooting.

“It just wasn’t falling,” said guard Te’a Cooper, who had 15 points on four-of-14 shooting.

Cooper reunited with a former Baylor teammate Lauren Cox, who signed with the Sparks on Wednesday after being cut from the Indiana Fever. Cox, the No. 3 pick in the WNBA draft, finished with four points and five rebounds in 18 minutes after never practicing with the team.

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Former Sparks guards Chelsea Gray and Riquna Williams returned to L.A. for the first time since leaving in free agency. Gray had eight assists and Williams had 14 points and eight rebounds. The pair led the Aces (12-4) to a 10-0 run to close the first quarter that knocked any early confidence out of their former team.

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The Sparks will see their former teammates again Friday, then have two straight games against the first-place Seattle Storm. The stretch could bury L.A. at the bottom of the standings, but Fisher is focused on ensuring that the team continues to show good body language, communicate on defense and execute well on offense, even if the final score doesn’t show progress.

“If we can continue to do those things, even if the score isn’t always in our favor, then we can build on that as we go forward,” Fisher said. “[Easier] said than done, but we’re damn sure going to keep working and trying.”


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