wnba

Sparks start new season with loss to Atlanta Dream

The Sporting Tribune's Rey Moralde was in Long Beach for the Sparks' first game of the season, a 92-81 loss to the Atlanta Dream.

LONG BEACH, Calif. — The Sparks opened up their season in the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach. But they couldn’t get a W against the rough Atlanta Dream as they lost, 92-81.

It was a close game for the first three quarters before the Sparks went on an untimely drought (which happened quite a bit last season) to start the fourth period. Atlanta went on an 11-0 stampede to begin the fourth. The Sparks did cut it down to six points with a minute and a half to go but a five-second violation not too long after pretty much ended all hope.

Still, the moxie of the Sparks endeared them to the crowd, which was electrifying all game at the Pyramid. The grit and tenacity of a Curt Miller-led team was on display, going for loose balls and dives on the floor. At the end, it wasn’t enough as the Dream overwhelmed them in that aforementioned early part of the fourth.

“I thought our offensive inefficiency to start the fourth quarter was as much contributing as our defense,” answered Miller after asked about the fourth quarter. “We did not get any paint touches early in the fourth quarter. We were stuck at the arc and, really, around the perimeter did not get any movement from that group. That offensive inefficiency allowed them to get out of transition, move us and play off of missed baskets where maybe your defense and your schemes aren’t as point. And then they went us inside early in the fourth quarter.”

It’s not all bad in this loss. The Sparks kept up for three quarters. And Coach Miller talked about the positives.

“I love their scrappiness,” said Miller. “I love their tempo for the most part. I think you see that we can be a better three-point shooting team than we were last year overall. We did not have a good night at the foul line but so much positives you can take away from a build year. And I thought we played so hard.”

Some of the positives also included Dearica Hamby, who went for a double-double at 20 points and 14 boards. She also talked about her chemistry with Cameron Brink.

“We’re both so versatile that I think it’s going to work out in the end for us,” said Hamby.

And Kia Nurse scored a team-high 23 points. Nurse did not play in the 2022 season due to an ACL injury and worked her way back in 2023 with Seattle to play all 40 games. So for her to score that much felt like a weight had been lifted off her.

“For me personally, it’s been a long road, a long journey coming back from the ACL,” said Nurse. “Last year, mentally, I just didn’t feel like myself and this is a nice place to start. With a loss, it’s not as exciting. But it’s a proud moment to be able to play.”

The rookies Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson had their moments. Brink had 11 points, four assists, and two blocks but she was also in foul trouble, which has been a weakness for her throughout her playing career. She did convert a three-pointer that cut the deficit down to 87-81 late. As for Jackson, she scored seven points, which included a lay-up to beat the halftime buzzer.

Layshia Clarendon also had their first triple-double (11 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists). So lots of positives but not enough to win the game.

As for the Dream, Rhyne Howard led the team with 25 points. Tina Charles scored 11 of her 17 points in a 13-2 run in the second period. Haley Jones chipped in 14 points.

But as mentioned, it was quite the crowd the Sparks played in front of. We even got a Kim Kardashian appearance!

It may not be the result that the Sparks wanted. But they will keep on building as the year goes on. And when you build it, they will come.

The Sporting Tribune’s Fredo Cervantes contributed to this report.