In a season when they have already been hit with several injuries to key players, the Sparks (4-4) have prided themselves on being able to wear down opponents with their defensive effort, but they came out flat on Thursday.
Tina Charles had 20 points and 10 rebounds to pass Lisa Leslie for second on the WNBA’s career double-double list, helping the Washington Mystics beat the depleted Sparks, 89-71, on Thursday night in Washington.
Charles, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 WNBA draft, has 158 double-doubles – one more than longtime Sparks star Leslie. Minnesota forward Sylvia Fowles is the leader with 169.
Ariel Atkins scored 18 of her 23 points in the first half, Theresa Plaisance added 11 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots, and Myisha Hines-Allen had 10 points for Washington (4-5). Atkins was 7 for 10 from the field, but the rest of her teammates combined to shoot 23 for 61 (37.7%).
Washington held the Sparks (4-4) to 32.8% shooting and outrebounded the visitors 43-31.
Te’a Cooper scored 11 points and Brittney Sykes added 10 for the Sparks. Kristi Toliver faced her former team for the first time this season and scored three points in 24 minutes.
The Mystics were the more aggressive team from the opening tip, punching first and pouncing on any Sparks miscues while dodging any counter-attacks.
The 32-year-old Charles, leading the league in scoring (25.9 ppg), had little trouble against the Sparks’ frontcourt, logging her double-double before the fourth quarter. The Mystics center also made some history early in the game, becoming just the fourth WNBA player with 2,500 career field goals, according to Across the Timeline.
After missing three of her first four shots, Charles finished 8 for 17 from the field. Sparks center Amanda Zauhi B., tasked with guarding the five-time WNBA All-Star, dipped into foul trouble in the first half, and the Sparks missed her defensive energy.
“Tina Charles is a Hall of Fame player, one of the best players to ever play in this game,” Sparks coach Derek Fisher said before the game. “There’s only so much that you can do in terms of slowing her down, it’s just really making her work as hard as possible.”
Te’a Cooper scored 11 points and Brittney Sykes added 10 for the Sparks (4-4). Kristi Toliver faced her former team for the first time this season and scored three points in 24 minutes.
Without leading scorer Nneka Ogwumike, who hasn’t played since June 1 with a knee sprain, the Sparks didn’t have the offensive weapons to cut into a deficit that was already double digits by halftime and grew to as much as 24 at one point.
News services contributed to this story.