Mystics 69

(12-13, 4-7 away)

Sparks 72

(10-13, 6-4 home)

    10:30 PM ET, August 18, 2009

    Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

    1 2 3 4 T
    WSH 12 19 18 2069
    LA 16 17 19 2072

    Top Performers

    Washington: M. Ajavon 20 Pts, 2 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl

    Los Angeles: L. Leslie 20 Pts, 7 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk

    Mystics-Sparks Preview


    For two teams on the fringe of the playoff picture, the Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks haven't done themselves any favors with their recent play.

    The Mystics have dropped three of four going into a four-game western swing that starts Tuesday at Los Angeles, where the Sparks will be trying to avoid a third straight home loss.

    Washington's most recent defeat was particularly disheartening, coughing up a two-point lead in the final 10 seconds of Sunday's 60-59 home loss to last-place New York.

    The Mystics (12-12) had beaten Connecticut 91-89 in their previous game, but they dropped to 2-4 this month and slipped out of playoff position after putting up their lowest point total of the season.

    "We can't come off of a great game and then come into this game and sort of have a lack of focus," standout guard Alana Beard said. "I continue to say we have to grow, we have to grow, but at this point, it's too late in the season to continue to say that. We all have to come in with a more focused attitude."

    There isn't much margin for error in the Eastern Conference, where the Mystics are in fifth place but one game out of second, with the top four teams advancing to the playoffs.

    The fifth-place Sparks (9-13) are in a similar spot in the West, tied in the loss column with San Antonio and Minnesota, which are both 11-13. Those three teams are currently jockeying for the final two spots.

    Los Angeles will have eight of its last 12 games at Staples Center, but playing at home hasn't been any kind of advantage lately. The club's last two home games have been losses to New York and Sacramento, the worst teams in the East and West.

    The Sparks rebounded from those back-to-back defeats with a 78-61 road win over the Monarchs on Saturday, and it may have renewed the team's optimism.

    "Despite what has happened this year, we still believe we can do it," center Lisa Leslie said. "We can beat any team in this league when we play together like we did (Saturday)."

    Leslie had 12 points and nine rebounds after scoring a season-high 25 in Friday's loss to Sacramento, but the most promising development for the Sparks may have been Candace Parker's performance.

    The reigning league MVP has struggled this year after having her first child, but she matched a season high with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting Saturday.

    "She reasserted herself tonight and we wanted to find her," coach Michael Cooper said. "She's really made leaps and bounds in terms of progress over the past week or so."

    Parker scored two points in the Sparks' 75-63 loss at Washington on July 11, and the Mystics also have won their last two visits to Staples Center.