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Sparks battle without Nneka Ogwumike but lose to Mystics

LOS ANGELES — In her first game back from health and safety protocols, Sparks guard Brittney Sykes scored 12 of her 16 points in the first half, but the Sparks lost to the Washington Mystics, 94-81, on Tuesday night at Crypto.com Arena.

Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, who is averaging 18.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game this season, did not play against the Mystics due to a non-COVID-related illness.

Two-time WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne led the Mystics with 26 points in 27 minutes, and Mystics guard Natasha Cloud had 21 points and nine assists.

The Sparks (10-13) trailed 53-44 at halftime but began the third quarter on a 4-0 run, while at the same time turning up their defensive intensity and forcing a 24-second shot clock violation.

However, the Mystics (15-10) responded and led 69-60 heading into the fourth quarter and pulled away in the final minutes.

Meanwhile, both Sykes and Sparks guard Kristi Toliver came off the bench and played more than 20 minutes against the Mystics after being activated from the injury report. Toliver scored 11 of her 12 points in the fourth quarter.

“I just have to go with (who) we have that are healthy and ready to go for us,” Sparks interim coach Fred Williams said. “It’s a learning experience for us, some of the young ones that get a lot of minutes right now so that’s good for us but what’s bad for us sometimes is we don’t have all the team together that’s when it kind of throws our rhythm off.”

Meanwhile, Mystics coach Mike Thibault said he wanted to be able to matchup against Sparks center Liz Cambage and prevent the 6-foot-9 post player from getting second shots and try not to put her at the free-throw line.

Cambage finished with eight points, three rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes.

“I think in general, we’ve known how to help on her (and) when to do it,” Thibault shared. “The other thing is you have to make Liz play on both ends of the court, make her work on the defensive end.”

Sparks forward Katie Lou Samuelson had 16 points. Chiney Ogwumike had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, as she replaced her older sister Nneka in the starting lineup.

The Sparks next host Candace Parker and the Chicago Sky on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

More to come on this story.

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