Washington Mystics Coach Trudi Lacey, seen here at left during a game earlier in the season, watched her team lose for the seventh consecutive game on Friday night. (Richard Lipski/For The Washington Post)

In the early going Friday night, it seemed as if the Washington Mystics were going to be able to hang with the playoff-bound Los Angeles Sparks.

Shots were falling, the ball was moving and the game was flowing well for the Mystics through much of the first quarter, but consistency once again proved elusive. The Sparks quickly and steadily pulled away for a 96-68 dismantling of the Mystics in front of 7,468 fans at Verizon Center.

The Mystics opened the game on fire, making six of their first seven shots to jump out to a 12-9 lead less then five minutes into the first quarter. From there, the Sparks closed the quarter on a 23-8 run, pushing their advantage to 12 points by the end of the first quarter and to 22 at the end of the third.

“We showed moments of good execution, and Monique Currie came out and played well and Jasmine [Thomas] played well, but overall a team that is that good, you can’t turn the ball over,” Mystics Coach Trudi Lacey said. “The thing that we focused on in the second half was getting some minutes and some playing time for our younger players.”

The Mystics (5-23) were led offensively by Currie, who finished with 16 points, and Thomas, who scored 15. Forward Crystal Langhorne, who averages nearly 16 points per game for the Mystics, finished with just six points.

“I think I really just missed my shots,” Langhorne said. “They were my usual shots and I just didn’t make them, and then I was just kind of out of it. They didn’t double me, they didn’t do anything like that. I just missed shots I usually take.”

Center Candace Parker and guard Kristi Toliver led the Sparks (20-9) with 18 points apiece. Two former Mystics, guards Alana Beard and Marissa Coleman, rounded out the top scorers for Los Angeles with 16 and 10 points, respectively. Parker, who won an Olympic gold medal with the U.S. women’s basketball team last month, also added eight assists and nine rebounds.

“We were executing our game plan,” Lacey said. “I have to give them a lot of credit. They shared the ball. They ran everything through Candace Parker. . . . They shot the ball very well tonight.”

The loss was the Mystics’ seventh in a row and 13th in their last 15 games, a stretch that dates from July 6. It comes on the heels of an encouraging effort in a 77-70 home loss to Eastern Conference-leading Connecticut on Tuesday, when the Mystics stayed within two possessions of the Sun for most of the final quarter.

The game was also a homecoming of sorts for Beard, who starred for the Mystics from 2004 to 2009 before sitting out both the 2010 and 2011 seasons while nursing an injured left ankle.

“I really couldn’t tell whose arena it was, because every time we’d score they would cheer, every time the Mystics scored they would cheer,” Beard said. “So it just felt good to be back and see familiar faces.”

MERCURY 91, SUN 82: DeWanna Bonner had 35 points and seven rebounds to lead visiting Phoenix over Eastern Conference-leading Connecticut.

Diana Taurasi scored 16 points in just 18 minutes for the Mercury (7-20). Bonner was 6 for 11 on three-pointers.

SKY 92, LIBERTY 83: Epiphanny Prince scored 30 points to lead visiting Chicago over New York.

Tamera Young added 19 points for Chicago (11-16), which moved one-half game past New York for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

FEVER 82, SILVER STARS 78: Tamika Catchings had 26 points and 11 rebounds to lead visiting Indiana to a victory over San Antonio.

Katie Douglas added 18 points, Briann January had 12 and Shavonte Zellous 11 for the Fever (18-9), who moved 11 / 2 games behind the first-place Connecticut Sun in the Eastern Conference.

LYNX 97, DREAM 93, 2OT: Taj McWilliams-Franklin made a 15-footer and a pair of key defensive plays in the final minute of the second overtime as host Minnesota rallied from a 25-point deficit and defeated Atlanta in a rematch of last year’s WNBA Finals.

Maya Moore scored 23 points to lead the Lynx (23-4).

— Associated Press