LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Minnesota Lynx don’t want to lose the feeling that comes with winning. They’re having too much fun doing it.
Lindsay Whalen scored a season-high 24 points and the Lynx extended their franchise-best winning streak to nine games with an 84-78 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday night.
Seimone Augustus had 19 points and Rebekkah Brunson scored 18 for Minnesota (16-4). Whalen, the league’s assists leader, had eight.
“We’re having fun. That’s the main thing,” Whalen said. “We just have to keep it going.”
The Lynx snapped a six-game losing skid at Staples Center, where they are just 4-19 all-time. Their last win in Los Angeles came on July 3, 2008.
DeLisha Milton-Jones led the Sparks (7-13) with 18 points, while Tina Thompson had 17. Despite a near comeback down the stretch they lost for the seventh time in eight games.
Leading by 15 points with 4:49 left, the Lynx fended off a late rally. The Sparks went on a 13-2 run, using six straight points from Ticha Penicheiro to pull to 78-74 with 59 seconds to go. The Lynx then made three free throws to seal it.
“We were right there,” Penicheiro said. “But I think we dug ourselves too big a whole and ran out of time.”
The WNBA-leading Lynx moved four games clear of San Antonio in the Western Conference standings. Minnesota has gone six years without making the postseason.
“We’re playing together,” Whalen said. “Any given night, it seems to be someone different stepping up.”
Whalen, playing in her 250th game, moved within seven points of 3,000 for her career. When she reaches the milestone she will become the sixth player in WNBA history with 3,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.
“I try not to think about it. It will eventually happen,” Whalen said. “I’m not really focused on it.”
Even playing at home hasn’t helped the struggling Sparks, who lost their fourth in a row at Staples Center in front of a crowd that included Academy Award winning actor Tom Hanks sitting courtside.
The Sparks fell to 3-10 since losing star Candace Parker to a torn lateral meniscus in her right knee on June 26. The 2008 MVP and Rookie of the Year has been rehabbing the injury and was in uniform on the bench, but said it was only because she went through a pregame workout and didn’t change clothes.
The Lynx forced the Sparks into 18 turnovers, leading to 26 points the other way.
Augustus hit a pair of jumpers to start the fourth for the 69-58 lead. Kristi Toliver made a 3-pointer for the Sparks, but the Lynx ran off seven consecutive points.
Alexis Hornbuckle banked in a straightaway 3-pointer, Brunson made a layup and Whalen finished near the basket while drawing the foul for the 76-61 advantage with 4:49 remaining.
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