After a slow start that saw the Los Angeles Sparks fight from behind to overcome a 16-point deficit, Chelsea Gray electrified the crowd of 9,244 in the closing minutes of the game while making an array of tough shots.
Gray scored seven of her 26 points in the final 1:25 and the Los Angeles Sparks rallied to defeat the Chicago Sky 84-81 on Sunday afternoon at the Staples Center.
Los Angeles (15-8) has now won eight of their last nine games and currently sit atop of the western conference standings, while Chicago dropped to (14-10).
Forward, Nneka Ogwumike had 17 points and 13 rebounds, and guard Maria Vadeeva added 12 points for the Sparks. Chicago’s Allie Quigley led the Sky with 20 points, Cheyenne Parker added 19, and Diamond DeShields had 16.
Eight minutes into the game, Chicago found themselves leading 20-6, forcing Los Angeles to commit seven turnovers through ten minutes of play.
“Early on, they had more purpose to their game,” said Sparks coach Derek Fisher on the Sky. “I thought that [Chicago] started the game more connected to the value of the game.”
“Obviously, not a good start,” said Ogwumike. “Not even a good half. But for us to be able to regroup, make our run, get some stops and convert on those stops, it was good.”
In the second period, the Sparks outscored the Sky 24-17 and were able to stay close heading into the second half. Ogwumike converted a jumper with 3.5 seconds left, cutting the Sparks halftime deficit to five, 44-39.
“We were able to kinda stay within striking distance in the first half,” said Sparks forward Candace Parker, who had eight points and five assists.
Los Angeles carried momentum into the third, and defensively, 25 Chicago turnovers proved to be too much to overcome.
Vadeeva connected on a 3-point play to open the fourth, giving the Sparks their first lead at 62-61.
Later in the period, a pivotal shot clock violation was forced by Los Angeles, Gray and Ogwumike then seemingly put the game away after scoring on back-to-back possessions with 5.7 seconds left.
Quigley was creative and got off a game-tying attempt at the buzzer, but it rolled off the rim and Sparks hung on to win, 84-81.
“What’s special about our team is that on a given night, anyone can step up and we need people to step up, “said Parker.
Haven’t not been on the road since July 23, Los Angeles will look to extend its winning streak to seven games, when they face the Dallas Wings on Wednesday, followed by a rematch with the Chicago Sky on Friday night.
“You get comfortable at home,” said Fisher. “I think we kind of reached our limit of being at home. It’s time to take this show on the road, and get a little bit of that edge back, that us-against-the-world mentality.”