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Sparks-Lynx Preview

Jul 27, 2009 - 10:49 PM By ALAN FERGUSON STATS Writer

Los Angeles (4-9) at Minnesota (10-7), 8:00 p.m. EDT

At times, the Minnesota Lynx have shined without leading scorer Seimone Augustus.

The Los Angeles Sparks, meanwhile, have struggled while Candace Parker tries to regain her MVP form.

The Lynx won't have Augustus this time when they face the Sparks at home for the second time this season, but Parker is expected to help her team try to end a three-game slide Tuesday night.

Since losing Augustus for the season to a torn ACL on June 19, Minnesota has won six of 11 without her 21.0 points per game. However, after winning three straight to end June, the Lynx have proved inconsistent this month in averaging 92.7 points in their three wins and 68.8 in four defeats.

Minnesota (10-7) had one of its better games Wednesday at Western Conference-leading Phoenix, winning 99-86 in its last contest before the All-Star break. Nicky Anosike scored 21 and Roneeka Hodges matched a season high with five 3-pointers for her third 20-point game since June 27.

Hodges' play is one of the reasons why the Lynx have a winning record without their top scorer and are the league's top 3-point shooting team (40.2 percent).

Before Augustus went out, Hodges had averaged 3.3 points and made six 3-pointers over six games. Since her teammate's injury, she's averaged 14.0 points and shot 45.0 percent from beyond the arc (32 of 70).

Minnesota, which blew a fourth-quarter lead in losing 72-69 at Seattle on July 19, nearly wasted a 16-point advantage Wednesday until Hodges hit a pair of 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the final period to put the game away.

"(Against) Seattle we were in kind of a similar situation and we just blew it," Hodges said. "Today we stayed focused, we kept our composure, and we got the job done."

Having Parker back from maternity leave since July 5 hasn't helped the Sparks (4-9) gain much consistency.

Los Angeles, which was 3-5 without the league's reigning MVP, has dropped four of five this month, including three straight during a stretch of seven in a row on the road.

The Sparks took Seattle to triple overtime in Wednesday night's 98-87 loss as Parker played a season-high 48 minutes. The second-year forward, who had averaged 21.8 minutes and 4.8 points in her previous four games, finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Sparks have allowed 83.8 points since Parker's return after giving up 69.9 while she was out.

"It was about us executing on both ends of the floor, and in the crucial moments, we weren't doing that," forward DeLisha Milton-Jones said. "And that's been the thorn in our side for a lot of the losses we've had this year."

Last season, Parker averaged 19.6 points on 57.5 percent shooting and grabbed 10.7 rebounds per game in helping Los Angeles win two of three over Minnesota, including the only meeting at the Target Center.

Without her to start this season, the Sparks fell 87-76 on June 10 in Minnesota as Augustus had a season-high 30 points.

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