For the Washington Mystics, a season that less than a month ago appeared to have great promise continued to unravel Friday night following a 95-75 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks at Verizon Center in the final game before the Olympic break.
The Mystics (9-15) head into the one-month layoff having lost seven in a row and out of position for the eight-team playoffs. Washington is in the midst of its longest slide since it lost 13 straight in 2012. That also was the last time the Mystics did not qualify for the postseason.
The Mystics are in ninth place with 10 games left in the regular season. Washington had moved into the No. 4 seed on June 29, which was its last victory.
“We’re trying to find six, seven, eight players who can be productive at both ends of the floor,” Coach Mike Thibault said. “Right now we’re struggling with that. We have people that are playing good defense but struggling with their shot, and we have some people who are making shots that are struggling on the defensive end.”
Forward Emma Meesseman led the Mystics with 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting, and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt had 10 points and three rebounds . The Mystics had a season-low 18 rebounds in losing its third straight to Los Angeles this year.
The Sparks (21-3) got 24 points on 6-for-7 shooting and 14 rebounds from MVP contender Nneka Ogwumike to end a two-game losing streak. When she left the game for good, Ogwumike had outrebounded the Mystics by herself. Candace Parker, another MVP candidate, had 18 points, six assists and five rebounds in front of an announced crowd of 5,455.
Trailing by 12 at halftime, Washington was unable to gain ground in the third quarter against an opponent chasing the WNBA single-season record for wins (30) set by the Phoenix Mercury in 2014. The Sparks would have to go unbeaten after the break to do so, but they started the season by winning their first 14 games before falling to the reigning WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx.
A 9-3 burst to open the second quarter bumped the Sparks’ margin to 36-19 with 6:48 to play until halftime. The push included consecutive field goals from Ogwumike.
The Mystics scored the next six points, but Los Angeles countered with six in a row in the final stages before halftime to lead 49-37 going into the locker room.
The Sparks used a 14-2 run in the first quarter to open their first double-digit lead of the game. Parker got it going with a jumper, and Essence Carson added a three-pointer that led to Thibault calling a timeout. Jantel Lavender made a jumper shortly thereafter to stretch the lead to 18-12 before Washington answered with Meeseeman’s layup off a pass from Ivory Latta.
Los Angeles scored the next seven points , beginning with two free throws from Carson. Eugeniya Belyakova made a three-pointer, and when Lavender and Alana Beard made baskets, the Sparks were ahead 28-16. Beard, who spent the first six seasons of her career with the Mystics, scored her field goal with less than three seconds left in the first quarter.