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Sparks Advance to Playoff Semifinals
By Amanda Scurlock, Sports Writer
Published September 7, 2017

Nneka Ogwumike (right) averaged 18.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this season (Nick Koza/T.G.Sportstv1.)

The Los Angeles Sparks concluded another impressive season with an 81-56 ousting of the Atlanta Dream on Friday, and an 81-70 victory over the Connecticut Sun on Sunday. With a 26-8 overall record and a 16-1 record at home, the Sparks achieved the no. 2 seed in the WNBA Playoffs.

According to the playoff format, Los Angeles ascended to the semifinal round. They advanced pass single-game elimination rounds one and two.

Los Angeles will play game one of the five-game semifinals series on September 12, in the Staples Center at 7:00 p.m.. Game two will be played on September 14, at Cal State Long Beach at 7:00 p.m.

“I like our team a lot, they get along great, they play well together,” said Sparks head coach Brian Agler. “They enjoy each other, which is probably – from a coaching stand point – enjoyable as it can be.”

The Sparks flaunt one of best frontcourt duos in the league with center Candace Parker and forward Nneka Ogwumike. Guard Alana Beard enforces the team’s defensive nature with 2.2 steals per game.

Guard Chelsea Gray has been an offensive force with a 48.2 percent three-pointer average. Center Jantel Lavendar and guard Odyssey Sims came off the bench to make substantial contributions.

Guard Odyssey Sims (1) started 14 out of the 29 games she played this season. (Nick Koza/T.G.Sportstv1)

“We just been focusing on our defense down the stretch,” Sims said after the win against Atlanta. “We know going in the playoffs, it’s gonna be a big part, especially rebounding on both ends of the court.”

The Connecticut Sun emerged as a formidable opponent throughout the summer, maintaining a six-game winning streak in late July and early August. After the loss, the Sun earned the fourth seed.

Guard Courtney Williams led the Sun in scoring with 19 points and center Jonquel Jones earned 10 rebounds.

Forward Nneka Ogwumike earned 21 points and center Candace Parker had 14 rebounds against the Sun.

Despite the team shooting at 16.7 percent from behind the arc, five Sparks players hit the double digits in scoring. Los Angeles hit their rhythm early with  an 18-4 run in the first quarter, ultimately holding the Suns to 27 points by halftime.

Atlanta came to Los Angeles with their playoff hopes on the line with a 12-20 overall record on Friday. They battled the Seattle Storm for the eighth spot.

The matchup brought out the talent of six-year veteran forward Tiffany Hayes, who earned 19 points, three rebounds, and three steals.

“That’s what she does, she gets to the basket, she’s our leading scorer,” said Dream guard Layshia Clarendon about Hayes. “[Opponents] can scout her moves, but she’s still so fast, it’s like, they can’t stop her.”

Los Angeles had four players score in the double digits. Parker led the team with 15 points, while Ogwumike managed the boards with six rebounds and Sims had seven assists.

Guard Alana Beard (0) averages 6.9 points per game and leads the WNBA in steals per game (Nick Koza/T.G.Sportstv1)

The loss took the Dream out of playoff contention, finishing the season with a 12-22 overall record. “We’re fighters and we’re only gonna get better,” Dream head coach and Showtime Laker Michael Cooper said after the game on Friday. “We’re obviously playing the second best team in this league, obviously they’re the champions, so for us to even hang in there as long as we did, I have to use that as a plus for us.”

Cooper was fired on Tuesday; he was at the head coach of Atlanta for four seasons.  Cooper won back-to-back WNBA Championships with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002.

Categories: Basketball | Sports
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