LOS ANGELES -- Michael Cooper can't figure out his slumping Los Angeles Sparks, who blew another chance to move into the playoff picture against a team that is all but out of it.
Rebekkah Brunson scored 19 points, Nicole Powell added 18 and the Sacramento Monarchs rallied in the fourth quarter for an 85-79 victory Friday night, their first in three meetings against the Sparks.
"We blew a golden opportunity to a team that is playing for nothing more than pride. They're just trying to be a spoiler like we were a couple years ago," Cooper said.
"Until we've decided to play defense as a team and not individuals, we'll just flounder and probably work ourselves out of the playoffs."
The Sparks were favored to win the WNBA championship, thanks to their loaded roster. But the season has gone the other way.
"We continued to throw the ball away and we had players running into each other out there like they don't even know each other," Cooper said. "Our coach can't coach that, I can only coach plays. I can't coach pride on defense, I can't coach on decision making or shots or passes. I don't know anymore that I can do. It's just on the players now."
Lisa Leslie scored 25 points and blocked her 800th career shot in the first quarter for the Sparks, who lost their second in a row against a conference-worst team. They were beaten by the New York Liberty, who trail the Eastern Conference standings, on Tuesday.
It was Leslie's highest-scoring game since returning from a right knee injury on Aug. 4.
"I don't really have the answers," she said. "Just like winning is contagious, it's almost like losing is contagious too. There's spurts where we're fighting hard and then there's spurts where the team is just like running off points on us and we're not getting defensive stops."
Brunson had her strongest outing in her third game back from a knee injury. Kara Lawson added 12 points, Hamchetou Maiga-Ba 11, and Ticha Penicheiro had 10 points and 10 assists for the last-place Monarchs, who will host the Sparks in a rematch on Saturday night.
"If we would've won today and won tomorrow, we would've been in the playoffs," said Candace Parker, who added 10 points and 10 rebounds for her league-leading seventh double-double. "We're disgusted about the way things are going. Nobody would've ever imagined us to be 8-13 at this point in the season. As crazy as it is, we still have an opportunity to be in the playoffs."
Noelle Quinn added 13 points and Tina Thompson 12 for Los Angeles. Quinn scored six in the final 1:44. Parker got fouled with 51 seconds remaining, but missed the first and made the second to leave the Sparks trailing by four.
"We can't give up 30-something points in the first quarter and expect to win," Parker said. "We made critical mistakes towards the end, but it shouldn't come down to the end of the game."
Sacramento used an 11-0 run to take its largest lead of the fourth, 77-68, with 2:38 remaining. Powell scored four points, Lawson hit a 3-pointer and Brunson made two free throws in the spurt.
"It's definitely good to come in here and be able to beat them in their own house," Brunson said. "But we aren't expecting anything less from them. We know they're going to come to Sacramento tomorrow and play really hard. We just need to keep our composure and keep playing our game."
The Sparks answered with six in a row, including two baskets by Quinn, to get to 77-74. From there, the Monarchs outscored Los Angeles 8-4 to end the game.
"Their team obviously has struggled and they don't have a great record and they're finding a way, so it's not impossible to do," said Leslie, who will retire at the end of her 12th season.
Los Angeles scored six in a row midway through the third to take its first lead since the start of the game. Parker capped the run that put the Sparks ahead 56-53. Sacramento answered with a 4-0 run before Leslie completed a three-point play to send the Sparks into the fourth leading 59-57.
The Sparks rallied from a 14-point deficit to get within one at halftime. They staggered out of the gate, committing seven turnovers and getting dominated 18-8 in the paint in the first 10 minutes.
"We knew we couldn't come out sluggish because they're a team that is very capable of jumping on you early," Brunson said. "We knew we had to come out hard initially and play as tough as we possibly could."
But Leslie found her shooting touch, scoring 11 points, and in the second quarter, her teammates followed suit. The Sparks outscored the Monarchs 25-14 in the period, getting balanced offense with Leslie contributing just four points.