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Atlanta- The Atlanta Dream (3-1) battled back and maintained to defeat the World Champs L.A. Sparks in a close game 75-73.
The Dream opened up the game with an 8-0 run causing three turnovers which led to six points. Layshia Clarendon led the run with six of the eight points.
The Sparks battled back to cut the lead 20-18 at the end of the first quarter. Center Nneka Ogwumike and guard Chelsea Gray both led the Sparks in scoring with seven points each.
Although L.A. made a mini run to get back in the contest, Atlanta dictated the pace by speeding up the game. The Dream started out with 10 fast break points holding the Sparks to absolutely none.
The Sparks went on a 8-0 run to take the lead 30-25 with 3:47 left in the second quarter. Atlanta went cold going 1-7 during that drought.
Showing frustration, guard Tiffany Hays collected a technical foul at the end of the run.
After getting back in their rhythm, the Dream trailed the Sparks 32-29 at the end of the first half.
Atlanta intensified their defense causing three shot clock violations in a row on Los Angeles. They came out aggressive on offense going on a 11-1 run.
“We do so many drills in practice that I think we were locked in for tonight. We can’t win without defense,” says Clarendon.
The Dream outscored L.A. 44-24 inside the paint. “We have three bigs that score down there and what I love the most is our guards are capable of driving to the basket,” says coach Michael Cooper.
Staying consistent and aggressive, the Dream held on to a 51-44 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Sparks took the lead back by going on a 7-0 run. Guard Chelsea Gray sparked the run by scoring five of the seven including a fast break layup off a steal to put them ahead 55-53. Gray ended up with a game high 25 points.
The game went back and forth as both teams traded baskets. Late in the quarter after a pair of Hayes free throws, Clarendon got a crucial steal and got fouled with 37 seconds late. She only hit one free throw.
After a layup by forward Candice Parker, Hayes put the Dream up by four by hitting one out of two from the line to win the game.
Hayes led the Dream with 24 points going 7-12 from the field. Clarendon added nine points and a game high 12 assist.
Candace Parker had six points, six rebounds and six assist. “Our first half has been pretty good against teams but the third quarter has been our problem,” says Parker.
Atlanta’s next game is against the San Antonio Stars on May 31st, at 11;30 a.m.