Sparks begin road trip against New York

The Los Angeles Sparks are closing in on their seventh straight playoff berth and will spend the rest of the season doing a lot of traveling.

Los Angeles ends the regular season with five out of its last six games on the road, and the first stop is the Westchester County Center in White Plains, N.Y., for a meeting with the struggling New York Liberty.

Los Angeles (17-11) is in a tight race for playoff position and visits Atlanta and Phoenix on this trip before hosting the Liberty on Aug. 14. Then the Sparks close out the season with trips to Washington and Connecticut.

The Sparks are on a two-game winning streak after posting a 78-75 home win over Phoenix on Sunday. The Sparks led for most of that game, which followed a 79-57 rout of Minnesota on Thursday.

"The Minnesota win and today were big wins for us because of the playoff implications, but there is a lot of basketball to be played, yet," Sparks coach Brian Agler said after Sunday's win. "We're glad to have everybody back, and hopefully, we can keep moving forward."

Chelsea Grey scored a season-high 24 points against Phoenix and is averaging 17.7 points over her last four games. She is shooting 47.5 percent (29 of 61) from the floor in that span since shooting 3 of 12 in a loss to Indiana on July 20.

Candace Parker totaled 14 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists on Sunday, becoming the 20th player to reach 5,000 career points. She is three behind Taj McWilliams-Franklin for 19th on the all-time scoring list.

"It's a great deal for her to score 5,000 and I'm sure she'll keep moving up the ladder," Sparks forward Alana Beard said.

Los Angeles is 3-1 in its last four games since a 78-76 home loss to Indiana on July 20.

The last two wins were achieved with Nneka Ogwumike back in the lineup. She has totaled 29 points and 13 rebounds since returning from a three-game absence due to an illness.

The Liberty (7-21) are on a seven-game losing game streak after consecutive fourth quarters to forget.

In Saturday's 68-55 loss to Indiana, the Liberty were held without a field goal and scored just two points. In Monday's 96-80 loss to league-leading Seattle at Madison Square Garden, the Liberty were outscored 35-20 and allowed a game-ending 24-6 run.

"The effort was definitely there. Everyone was playing hard," said New York's Tina Charles, who scored 20 points. "We ran up against a really great team."

The Liberty held their own against the Storm, taking a two-point lead with about six minutes left but gave up the next 15 points and lost for the 15th time in 18 games.

New York is on its first seven-game skid since closing out the 2013 season with seven straight losses. It is the Liberty's third skid of at least seven games in team history.

Charles had some help with the scoring as Kia Nurse also scored 20 points in her first career start. The Liberty played the game without Shavonte Zellous (ankle), Epiphanny Prince (knee) and Marissa Coleman (ankle).

"We're all playing for next year," first-year Liberty coach Katie Smith told reporters. "We're all playing for jobs."

Los Angeles is 6-1 in the last seven games against New York.
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