Although the Sparks shot at 45.3 percent in field goals, they could not outlast the Washington Mystics. An abundance of free throw opportunities would give Washington an 83-74 win over Los Angeles.
Guard Chelsea Gray led all scorers with 23 points and forward Nneka Ogwumike earned her fifth double-double of the season with 22 points and 13 points. Ogwumike’s efforts, however, were overshadowed by the loss.
“It wasn’t enough,” she said. “We just got to do better as a team.”
Guard Kristi Toliver led the Mystics with 20 points, landing all 13 of her free throws. Center LaToya Sanders made eight rebounds.
“L.A. is tough. They present different looks throughout the game,” Toliver said. “Nothing was consistent; they always kept you on your toes, read the defense, and make plays.”
The Mystics did not waste time taking control of the game; their paint protection not only stifled the Sparks’ shots, but also allowed Washington to collect rebounds. Washington forward Ariel Atkins secured their offense with nine points. Long-range field goals and trips to the charity stripe kept the Sparks in the game. Yet, the Mystics finished the first ahead 19-14.
Ogwumike started the second quarter with a five-point run to tie the game at 21. Forward Elena Delle Donne contested the run with five points of her own. Center Candace Parker would give the Sparks their first lead.
Guard Alana Beard started what became an eight-point run, giving the Sparks the upper hand with a 35-30 lead at the half. Close range shots helped the Sparks, as Los Angeles scored 18 points in the paint. Neither team scored a three pointer in the first half.
“We were getting stops and then playing in transition and scoring,” Gray said. “It all starts with defense.”
Los Angeles maintained their dominance as they endured foul calls, Toliver scored the first three-pointer of the game to bring Washington within four points of the Sparks. Free throws from Toliver would close the deficit, a mid-range basket by Toliver would give the Mystics a two-point lead at the end of the third.
“I thought we made a good comeback in the first half. Second half, we gave up too many points,” said Sparks head coach Brian Agler. “The result is very disappointing. I thought our focus was good; we had some people really give a lot: [Ogwumike], [Beard], [Gray], down the stretch, [Carson], they battled hard.”
As the Sparks rallied back from a five-point deficit, but fouls were called on Ogwumike, Gray, and Sims. Los Angeles gathered 12 fouls in the final quarter, hindering Grays 12-point performance. Gray and Ogwumike would whittle the gap down to two points on several occasions, but Toliver reacted effectively to keep the Sparks behind.
“Free throws are indicative of how we play defensively,” Beard said. “We allowed them to get to their spots, we were slow on rotations, slow on our footwork.”