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Sparks Make History on Lisa Leslie’s Birthday
By Amanda Scurlock, Sports Writer
Published July 11, 2019

Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud (9) defends Los Angeles Sparks guard Chelsea Gray (Omer Khan/T.G.Sportstv1)

The Sparks’ Sunday game against the Washington Mystics was historic in several ways. Their 98-81 win over the Mystics made them the first WNBA franchise to have 450 regular season wins. Sparks head coach Derek Fisher wished WNBA legend Lisa Leslie a happy birthday and attributed the franchise’s success to her efforts.

“A lot of this was not possible without Lisa, a lot of other players as well,” Fisher said. “20 years, 34-game season , that’s a lot of wins.”

The Sparks landed 16 three-point shots, the most made in a single game in franchise history. Guard Chelsea Gray became the eighth player in WNBA history to earn a triple double: 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists. Gray attributed the success to her teammates.

“It’s a testament for who I’m around, who I compete with day in and day out,” Gray said. “My post players let me get a few more rebounds than they usually do, they were finishing buckets, playing with some of the best in the world.”

Teammates held Gray in high esteem for her efforts; while being happy for her triple double they ensure that this was only a glimpse of her full capabilities. Gray was recently named as a WNBA All-Star starter.

“I hold her to high standards, she’s gonna get to a point where it will become an average,” guard Alana Beard said. “She’s a leader, she’s humbles, she knows how to get the best out of each and every teammate, so I’m super excited about her future.

Forward Nneka Ogwumike made a season high of 31 points and tied with Gray at 10 rebounds.  Forward Aerial Powers made a career high of 24 points, Guard Kristi Toliver and forward Tianna Hawkins tied for eight rebounds.

The Sparks found their shot early, Nneka made three-pointers to give the Sparks dominance in the early minutes of the game. Gray would feed the ball to Nneka and Riquna Williams, on track to making six assists in the first quarter alone.

“It bugs me when I’m not able to finish some plays when she passes the ball to me,” Nneka said about  Gray. “She can definitely have a triple doubles all the time. She is an all-around point guard.”

Los Angeles Sparks guard Riquna Williams has been shooting at 40 percent in three-pointers (Omer Khan/T.G.Sportstv1)

Washington did not score during the first three minutes of the second quarter. Hawkins and Toliver created a five-point run to bring the Mystics within seven points. However, the Mystics would find a lead by halftime. At this point, the Sparks were shooting at 56 percent in three-pointers with Nneka leading all scorers with 17 points.

“She’s been capable of doing this every game, every night,” Chiney said about Nneka. “But she’s so selfless and team-first that she’s willing to set the screen or get the rebound or sprint back first or do those little things, I’m glad nights like this, she’s rewarded.”

Shots would not fall for the Mystics and tensions began to flare. Hawkins and Williams were involved in a scuffle and ultimately the two players and the head coaches all received technical fouls. The set back did not distract Sparks, who scored 14 points in the paint during the time frame.

This match up marked the third start for guard Riquna Williams, who has been giving the Sparks a load of competitive energy off the bench in previous games. She finished the afternoon with five three-pointers, ultimately scoring 19 points.

Fisher noted how she accepted the defensive challenges while being a consistent scorer as forward Candace Parker works to gel with the team.

“We needed another player offensively in particular that can be dynamic and cause problems for other teams defensively,” he said. “We needed that while Candace is working her way back to being the type of player where that’s normally her.”

The Sparks return to Staples Center on July 18 to battle the Dallas Wings 12:30P.M.

Categories: Basketball | Sports
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