Sykes, Gray help Sparks hold off Dream, clinch playoff berth

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Brittney Sykes scored 15 points, Chelsea Gray had 14 — including back-to-back baskets in the final minute — and the Los Angeles Sparks beat the Atlanta Dream 84-79 on Sunday night to win their ninth consecutive game and clinch a spot in the WNBA playoffs.

Los Angeles is the third team to seal a playoff berth, joining the WNBA-leading Seattle and Las Vegas.

Nneka Ogwumike left in the first half and did not return for the Sparks due to a back injury. Kristine Anigwe started the second half in Ogwumike’s place and finished with nine points and six rebounds. Candace Parker had just nine points on 4-of-11 shooting but added 10 rebounds and seven assists.

Chennedy Carter, who played 17 minutes Friday against Minnesota in her return from a five-game absence due to an ankle injury suffered on Aug. 10, led the Dream with 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Courtney Williams scored 15 points and Monique Billings added 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Carter made a layup to give Atlanta a 74-72 lead with 3:27 to play but Sykes scored the next six points before Parker made a driving layup as she was fouled but missed the and-1 free throw and it was 80-74 with 1:11 remaining. Carter and Gray each made layups before Billings converted a three-point play to make it 82-79 about 40 seconds later. But Gray dribbled into the lane, put on the brakes, and hit a fadeaway from the free-throw line with 8.1 seconds left and the Sparks held on.

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