July 14 WNBA Preview — Los Angeles Sparks (8-7) at Atlanta Dream (5-10)

The Los Angeles Sparks look to end their three-game road swing on a positive note Sunday when they face an Atlanta Dream club looking to sweep a three-game homestand.

Los Angeles (8-7) is trying to win for the fifth time in six games after fending off Indiana 90-84 on Friday night. Nneka Ogwumike scored 22 points to go with a career-high six steals and sister Chiney Ogwumike added 19 points. The siblings combined for eight points in a 21-3 third-quarter run that opened up a 66-38 lead and helped the Sparks snap a three-game road losing streak.

Chelsea Gray bounced back from a poor outing to contribute 15 points, six assists and five rebounds. Gray has been the bellwether for the Sparks over their five-game surge, averaging 14.8 points, 7.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds in their victories around a three-point, four-assist effort in their loss at Dallas on Tuesday night.

Candace Parker will miss a second straight game after sitting out Friday night with an ankle injury suffered in the loss to the Wings. Parker, who is averaging 8.0 points and 6.4 rebounds in seven games, missed the first seven contests of the season with a hamstring injury.

Atlanta (5-10) appears to finally be getting on track as it continues to play without injured star guard Angel McCoughtry. The Dream are riding back-to-back wins for the first time this season after a 60-53 win over Minnesota on Friday night, leading wire-to-wire while holding the Lynx to 35.4 percent shooting.

“Just incredibly proud,” Dream coach Nicki Collen said to the team’s official website. “I really think we would’ve blown them out if we made some open shots from the arc. We’re so good when we touch the paint. But as much as anything, I’m just proud of how we defended. We just really dialed into the game plan once again.”

Atlanta’s defense has held opponents to an average of 64.8 points in winning three of its last four games, a noticeable improvement on its season mark of 76.6 allowed per game that ranks eighth in the league.

Center Elizabeth Williams has helped pick up the slack offensively with back-to-back 17-point efforts. Atlanta misses McCoughtry most on the offensive end – the Dream are the only team in the WNBA averaging below 70 points (69.8) and are last in overall shooting percentage (37.2) and 3-point shooting (29.5).

“If you can’t appreciate a grind it out, then we’re probably not the team for you, because we’ve gotta do that sometimes,” Collen added.

Atlanta won the final two meetings of the three matchups last year, including a 79-73 home victory in the most recent contest Aug. 9 – the first game after McCoughtry was lost to a torn ACL she is still sidelined by.

(Elizabeth Williams photo courtesy Atlanta Dream official Twitter account)

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