Dream spoil Sparks’ shot at historic start to season

The Sparks were on the verge of history on Sunday. Instead, the Dream closed the book on their remarkable run.

Atlanta took care of Los Angeles 91-74 to snap the Dream’s two-game losing skid. The win also prevented the Sparks from moving their record to 21-1, which would have set a WNBA record for the best start to a season.

“This was a good win for us,” Dream coach Michael Cooper said. “To beat this team, which was playing some great basketball, might jumpstart us into something special.”

The Dream (12-11) handled the Sparks (20-2) due in part to Atlanta’s ability to spread the ball around. Nine Dream players scored in the game, with four recording double-digit points.

Angel McCoughtry and Layshia Clarendon were chief among them. They each ended the game with a team-high 17 points.

“We just wanted it,” McCoughtry said. “I told the team this was the game that could be the turnaround for our season. If we can beat them, we can beat anybody in this league. I hope the girls take this win and build their confidence so we can contend in this league and do some damage.”

The game was Atlanta’s first test without forward Sancho Lyttle, who broke a bone in her right foot on Friday. Despite the 6-foot-4 veteran’s absence, the team still outrebounded Los Angeles 42-34 in what was the Dream’s seventh straight win against the Sparks at home.

Rookie Bria Holmes had the challenge of replacing Lyttle but didn’t hesitate in the moment. The team’s first round pick in this year’s draft showed no hesitation, as she tied her career high with 15 points in the victory.

“I just let the game come to me,” Holmes said. “I let my defense create my offense. I went out there and tried to relax.”

It seemed like it would be a matter of time before Los Angeles closed the gap on Atlanta, but it never happened.

The Dream controlled the tempo for most of the 40 minutes of play and never surrendered a lead they grabbed with 19 seconds left in the first quarter. The Sparks’ time ahead was brief and fleeting, as their largest lead was only five points.

Cooper warned his squad about the chance Los Angeles could mount a comeback, mainly because he had seen it happen before. Atlanta hung neck and neck with Minnesota on June 10 before suffering one of the largest losses in franchise history. The Dream had an 18-point lead against the Wings on July 8 that evaporated, forcing the two teams to go to overtime.

There was no relapse this time around for Atlanta. The players had a chance to celebrate winning one of their last games before the break for the Summer Olympics.

So did Cooper, who knows the Sparks’ roster well from the three years he spent as the team’s head coach.

“This wasn’t a blowout,” Cooper said. “This was an ass-kicking.”

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