Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike (30) finished with 23 points in a 78-75 win over the Phoenix Mercury on Monday, July. 4, 2022 (Courtesy Photo)

Nneka Ogwumike finished with a game-high 23 points, Liz Cambage added 19 points and seven rebounds and the Los Angeles Sparks defeated the Phoenix Mercury 78-75 on Monday night at Crypto.com Arena.

The Sparks improved to 10-11 on the season and have now won three consecutive games, including picking up an 84-74 victory over New York on Sunday. The Mercury fell to 9-14 with the loss and dropped its second straight game.

“You gotta protect home court,” said Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike following the win.

Los Angeles had all five of its starters finish in double-figures and led by as many as 11 in the second quarter. Lexie Brown had 14 points, four assists and three steals while Jordin Canada and Katie Lou Samuelson each added 10 points for the Sparks.

“I’m happy we’re on a little streak and I’m ready to keep it rolling all of July,” said Sparks center Liz Cambage.

Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith led Phoenix with 22 points while Diana Taurasi finished with 13 points and six assists. Sophie Cunningham and Shey Peddy each added 10.

“I think that awareness is what stands out and us coming out with intention, with purpose, Ogwumike said. “I think that is something that we’re getting much better at, making the first punch… I really love the communication between, not just the starters but the whole team.”

The Sparks edged Phoenix on the glass by maintaining a (32-30) rebound advantage but Phoenix hit 15 of its 16 free throw attempts while Los Angeles made 19 of 25. Meanwhile, the Mercury bench outscored the Sparks bench 16-2.

“When we’re out there, we’re all seeking what’s working,” Ogwumike added. “Let’s get Lexie a shot, let’s get Katie Lou this, people are trying to make the right play and I think that is the mark of a team that you want to play on.”

Phoenix ended the first period with a 20-18 lead but Los Angeles quickly responded with a 23-10 run to take a 41-30 lead with two minutes left in the second period. However, the Mercury hung tough and ended the period on a 10-1 run to make it a 42-40 game at the half.

Both teams scored 14 points each in the third, setting up a back-and-forth pace in the fourth as neither team was able to pull away late.

Ogwumike made a jumper to give Los Angeles a 61-54 advantage with 8:40 left in the game but Phoenix quickly responded with back-to-back three-pointers by Peddy and Cunningham to get back within one, 61-60 with just over eight minutes to play.

Canada converted a pair of free throws to give the Sparks a four-point lead with 35.3 seconds left only before Taurasi was fouled on the next possession, allowing the future Hall of Famer to make two free throws to cut the Mercury deficit to 77-75 with 29.7 seconds remaining.

Taurasi had a look from three-point range that would have given Phoenix a lead but failed to graze the rim with 7.9 seconds left.

Ogwumike then split a pair of free throws on the next possession to give Los Angeles a three-point lead with 4.4 seconds left and Diggins-Smith failed to convert a midcourt heave at the buzzer at the end of regulation, resulting in a 78-75 win for the Sparks.

“I’m really proud for us for just staying together because that first month could have really seen teams go the other way,” Cambage said. “We just want to be the best we can be individually and as a team. We want to see everyone be the best they can be as well… I’ve never had communication, reinforcing that we’re doing everything right, I just love hooping with these ladies.”

The L.A. Sparks will next host the Seattle Storm (13-8) on Thursday, June 7 at 7:30 P.M.