Despite having four players sidelined, The Los Angeles Sparks secured 69-64 victory over the Dallas Wings on Wednesday. Their defensive energy in the second half was the catalyst to the win.
“Our players just kind of responded to the force that Dallas plays with, which I think caught them off guard,” said Sparks head coach Derek Fisher. “Defensively, our energy, our intensity really elevated in that third quarter once they realized that they were gonna have to play that hard just to have a chance to win.”
This game marks the return of former Sparks head coach Brian Agler who helped lead Los Angeles to their third championship in 2016. He is now the head coach of the Wings
“My four years were extremely enjoyable,” he said. “We accomplished quite a bit, it was a lot of fun.”
Forward Nneka Ogwumike led the Sparks with 22 points and guard Chelsea Gray had nine rebounds. Center Isabelle Harrison lead Dallas with 14 points and nine rebounds.
The L.A. Sparks entered the game with energy, but it was short-lived as they tied 4-4 by the first timeout. Los Angeles then suffered from bad passes and missing shots. The Wings frontcourt discouraged points. When guard Chelsea Gray made three consecutive steals, Wings post players grabbed rebounds.
Harrison spearheaded the tough frontcourt campaign, grabbing seven rebounds by halftime. Dallas executed seven rebounds, leading to seven second-chance points. Although Los Angeles trailed by as much as 14 points, guard Marina Mabrey came off the bench to contribute 10 points during the second quarter. Nneka noted that Mabry is “learning, but still contributing in ways that show maturity.”
“She’s doing a great job of being very receptive and understanding the focus level it takes at this level,” Nneka said.
Although Dallas was shooting at 50 percent in the first half, the tides began to shift after intermission. The Sparks went on a 8-2 run and the Wings began making turnovers. Dallas would get nine fouls in the third quarter, sending the Sparks to the line and allowing Nneka Ogwumike to score 13 points during the period.
“We had more energy and more fight,” center Kalani Brown said. “First half, I felt like we started off a little bit in a slump, but then we ended up picking it up.”
Dallas went into the fourth quarter behind by five points and with a spirit to win. With 6:42 minutes left in regulation; Harrison made a driving layup to bring the game within two points. Two regulated minutes later, Allisha Gray returned the Dallas deficit to two points quickly after Chelsea made a bucket from 13 feet out. However, the Sparks remained on top in the final minutes.
“You try to make the best decisions throughout the game, but you definitely want to have those clean and easy looks going down the stretch, especially at the last two minutes,” Chelsea said. “It’s really important to have the best looks possible.”
The Sparks will return home after a two-game road trip on August 1 against the Las Vegas Aces at 7:00P.M.