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Defenseless Starzz show little spark in loss to L.A.

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Sparks 92, Starzz 72

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The Utah Starzz knew they had their work cut out for them if they were going to put an end to the Los Angeles Sparks' 11-game winning streak.

As it turned out, Utah wasn't up for the job Sunday.

The Sparks stretched their streak to 12 as they outplayed Utah in every category and beat the Starzz 92-72 in the Great Western Forum. Every L.A. player scored, as the Starzz left their defense in Utah.

Coach Fred Williams substituted more than he has in the past six games trying to come up with a combination of players that could stop Sparks' center Lisa Leslie. She only played 22 minutes but scored 22 points and grabbed five rebounds.

"I was trying to find the right combination to get our defensive intensity where it needed to be," Williams said. "Defensively we've got to get after people a little more."

Williams felt it was Utah's defense, or lack thereof, that decided the outcome of the game. Only one L.A. player — Paige Sauer — played less than 10 minutes, and every player scored (Sauer had seven points in eight minutes).

Utah struggled at times with offense as well. The team's leading scorer and rebounder, Natalie Williams, had just eight points and eight rebounds.

Adrienne Goodson, their second leading scorer, had no points in the first half but had 13 in the second.

Center Margo Dydek spent most of the night on the bench, playing just 12 minutes because of foul trouble. When Williams could have put her back in near the end of the game, he decided to pull his starters and see what the reserves could do. They couldn't catch the Sparks, but they didn't lose any ground, and at one point, they got to within 11 points.

Williams also felt Los Angeles' game plan was to draw Dydek out of the paint, where she rebounds and blocks shots, and get her into foul trouble by getting her to try and defend outside shots.

The coach said he's not discouraged with the loss, even though it's the second in a row since Jennifer Azzi's return.

"We've got a lot more games to go," he said, reiterating that he feels it will take several games for Azzi to get used to playing.

Actually, Azzi was one of the bright spots for Utah and played the most minutes of the starters — 36. She had two steals, four assists and eight points. Nearly all her points were from drives to the basket.

"I just felt she made a lot of things happen when she was out there," Williams said.

He was a lot more calm than he was two nights ago when his team lost at home to Detroit.

"I had to be," he said. "You take the bright spots, and you have to build on the positive things we did."