10:30 PM ET, June 17, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
The Minnesota Lynx survived a few close calls while winning their first seven games, but lately the defending WNBA champions have been on the wrong side of those decisions.Minnesota looks to avoid a fourth defeat in five contests Tuesday night when it visits the Los Angeles Sparks, who are looking to snap out of their own slump.The Lynx won four games by five points or fewer during their hot start, and Maya Moore set a league record with at least 30 points in four straight games to begin the season.Moore has since relinquished the league's scoring lead and is down to 21.9 points per game while averaging 12.0 and shooting 31.1 percent over her last four. She scored 14 points as Minnesota's late rally fell short in Sunday's 80-72 loss to Phoenix.The Lynx (8-3) are beginning a stretch of three games in four days. After facing Los Angeles, they'll visit the Mercury on Wednesday before Friday's home date with Washington."This is definitely something we have to get ourselves out of," Moore said. "We've got to change the momentum that our team's in right now, and we have a long week. We have several opportunities to get that done, so that's where our focus is going to be."Coach Cheryl Reeve mainly has been concerned with her squad's defense, especially in the last two games. Minnesota also fell 85-82 to Atlanta on Friday."For the second game in a row, a team dropped 50 points on us in a half," Reeve said. "When we're not putting the ball in the hole at the same rate, trying to win a shootout (and keeping) up with 50 points in a half, it's going to be hard for us. So until we figure that out, games will be really hard."Minnesota's only victory over its last four games came against the Sparks on June 8. Seimone Augustus scored 26 points and Moore added 12 and 13 rebounds in an 85-72 win.Candace Parker finished with 24 points and 11 boards for Los Angeles (3-6), which has dropped three straight after a 101-74 loss to San Antonio on Saturday.The Sparks trailed by only five at halftime and shot 48.4 percent for the game, but they allowed the Stars to shoot 9 of 15 from 3-point range. The 27-point defeat is their worst during a season that could begin to slip away if they can't get on track soon."We played a terrible third and fourth quarter and they shot the lights out," coach Carol Ross said. "It's an embarrassing loss."Los Angeles has lost five of six, falling by at least eight points four times.Augustus has averaged 24.0 points in the last three meetings with the Sparks, while Parker has averaged 22.5 over her last four against Minnesota.