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Sparks hand Shock 15th straight defeat

The WNBA's worst team was the perfect remedy for the ailing Los Angeles Sparks.

Ticha Penicheiro scored a season-high 23 points and the Sparks beat the Shock 71-66 on Tuesday night, handing Tulsa its 15th straight loss.

Natasha Lacy and Tina Thompson had 12 points apiece to help the Sparks (8-13) snap a three-game losing skid. Penicheiro added seven rebounds and seven assists.

"We finally got that gorilla off our back," Penicheiro said. "It wasn't even a monkey at this point."

Tiffany Jackson led Tulsa (1-20) with 18 points and Liz Cambage scored 16 points off the bench.

Despite close losses in their last two games, including a 72-64 setback to San Antonio on Saturday, the Shock aren't counting the moral victories.

"It's very frustrating," Jackson said. "We've been close. But we all can't put our finger on it."

The Sparks had been stumbling of late as well. Since beating the Shock on July 15, they had dropped seven of eight overall, including four in a row at home. But Penicheiro's presence in the starting lineup proved to be the difference.

After coming off the bench the past 11 games, Penicheiro was inserted in the lineup for point guard Kristi Toliver, who missed the game for personal reasons. Penicheiro, who came in averaging 4.8 points, made 7 of 10 shots and 8 of 9 from the stripe for her highest point total since 2002.

The four-time All-Star hit all five of her shots in scoring 16 third-quarter points, including a nifty 360 spinning finger roll off the glass while drawing a foul. She helped the Sparks remain unbeaten in six meetings with Tulsa since the franchise relocated from Detroit.

"We didn't make it easy on ourselves," Penicheiro said. "It was tooth and nail."

Tulsa has now lost 19 consecutive road games, dating back to July 16, 2010.

Nonetheless, Cambage kept things close down the stretch, making a pair of free throws cut it to 68-64 with 1:14 left. Moments later Sheryl Swoopes was whistled for a technical, resulting in a Thompson free throw for the Sparks' 69-64 advantage.

Cambage's layup then made it 69-66, but Swoopes missed a jumper, and following an intentional foul, Penicheiro hit a pair of free throws for the game's final points.

"We didn't match their intensity down the stretch," Jackson said.

After the Shock went ahead 40-39 on Andrea Riley's 3-pointer midway through the third, Penicheiro answered with a 3-pointer on the other end. Lacy made a layup before consecutive baskets by Penicheiro gave the Sparks a 48-42 lead, which inflated to a 10-point advantage heading into the fourth.