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Sparks win, now 1/2 game out of final playoff spot

The Los Angeles Sparks pulled out a close victory over the San Antonio Stars. With the win, the Sparks moved within a half game out of the last playoff spot in the West.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With five players scoring in double digits, the Los Angeles Sparks squeezed out an 80-78 victory over the San Antonio Stars on Sunday.

The Sparks plummeted to the league's worst record at the All-Star break, but now are just 1/2 game behind the Stars in the run for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"The key to winning the game was in the third quarter when we gave up 10 [points]," said Candace Parker, of the LA Sparks. "That was huge, that's what Coach Agler is trying to instill, is that mentality, that fight, and we had it tonight."

Parker finished second in team scoring with 17 points and 11 rebounds in her second game back in action after taking time off earlier in the season. Jantel Lavender finished the game with 20 points and eight boards, just two rebounds short of her eleventh double-double of the season.

"A lot of times people don't talk about [Lavender], but she's been so consistent this year," said Brian Agler, head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks.

However, it was the points off the bench that made the difference in this contest. The Spark's Alana Beard added 15 points and a game-high seven assists to help guide the Sparks to their second consecutive win of the season.

"We have a bench, and they kept us in it," said Parker. "They tied it up in the second quarter. The Stars got back in there and got it back down again, but we're capable of going on runs as a team and if we come out with that mentality, all the time would be great."

The Stars took an early 23-19 lead at the end of the first quarter, and Jia Perkins led all scorers with seven points and three boards heading into the second quarter.

And after multiple up's and down's in the first half, the Stars pulled away heading into half with a 49-39 lead. Perkins led the way with 17 points at the break; Danielle Robinson added 10 points and four assists.

Beard led the Sparks with nine points and Lavender added six boards heading into the break.

However, despite the 10 point deficit, the Sparks were able to chip away at the Star's defensive game, ending the third quarter trailing by just one point.

"I think it was the defense in the second half is how we lost the game. They started hitting all those shots down the stretch and kind of put us in a pickle," said the Star's Perkins, who finished the game with a season-high 24 points.

In spite of the Star's 60% shooting from beyond the arc, it was defense in the second half that made the difference; the Sparks finished the game with 26 assists and seven blocks, along with 28 defensive rebounds compared the Star's 14 assists, zero blocks and 19 rebounds on the defensive end.

The Sparks are back at home on Tuesday when they try to keep their streak alive against the league's best team, the Minnesota Lynx. The Stars lace up again on Wednesday in Washington to take on the Mystics.