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Howard, Charles lead Dream to 92-81 win over Sparks, despite Clarendon’s first career triple-double

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Rhyne Howard scored 25 points, Tina Charles had 21 with 14 rebounds and the Atlanta Dream turned back the Los Angeles Sparks 92-81 on Wednesday night in their season opener.

Howard had five points as the Dream opened the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run for a 77-66 lead. The Sparks got within 87-81 on a 3-pointer by Cameron Brink, the overall No. 2 pick, with 1:34 left but they missed their last four shots and had a critical turnover while Atlanta went 5 of 6 from the foul line.

Haley Jones had 14 points and Allisha Gray had 12 for the Dream and Charles, the overall No. 1 pick in 2010 who sat out last season, had 14 rebounds as the Dream shot 51%.

Kia Nurse had five 3-pointers and 23 points for Los Angeles. Dearica Hamby had 20 points and 14 rebounds and 11-year veteran Layshia Clarendon had 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for her first career triple-double. Brink also had 11 points.

It was 26-26 after one quarter and Rickea Jackson, the Sparks’ second first-round pick, had a steal at midcourt and a buzzer-beating layup to tie it at 48 at halftime. It was the first points for the No. 4 pick.

Los Angeles, who lead 9-2 to start the game, had 15 assists on 17 baskets and the Dream, up nine midway through the second quarter, had 12 on 18 buckets with both teams shooting at least 50%.

L.A. cooled off to 39% shooting but had 24 assists and 28 baskets.

Jackson scored at the end of the third quarter to tie the game at 66 entering the fourth. She finished with seven points in 18 minutes.