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Sparks Put on Solid Defense on Camp Day, Defeats Dream 85-78
By Amanda Scurlock, Sports editor
Published July 22, 2022

Sparks center Chiney Ogwumike (13) and Nneka Ogwumike (30) defend Dream forward Rhyne Howard (10) (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

The Los Angeles Sparks earned their second consecutive win after defeating the Atlanta Dream 85-78. Four Sparks starters scored in the double digits with the bench pouring in 20 points.

After advocating for WNBA star Brittney Griner’s return to the United States during the ESPYS Wednesday night, forward Nneka Ogwumike led the Sparks with 20 points during their matinee Camp Day game. Center Chiney Ogwumike led the boards with seven rebounds.

Dream guard Tiffany Hayes and guard Aari McDonald scored 18 points each. Rookie forward Rhyne Howard made nine rebounds.

Dream guard Aari McDonald (2) scored seven points against the Sparks (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

Sparks interim head coach Fred Williams noted how the Dream has a strong offense. He was concerned about how the Sparks would contain them.

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“Before this game, I was concerned about transition defense and getting back,” he said. “I thought we really just played solid team defense all the way around.”

The Sparks were aggressive on the defensive end, making 12 steals. They also got a 26-point benefit from the Dream’s 21 turnovers.

Rhyne Howard (15) scored 10 points against the L.A. Sparks (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

While Brittney Sykes is known for her defensive performance, she made an offensive showing during the afternoon bout with 12 points and four assists. Chiney noted how Sykes has multiple roles.

“She has to defend the toughest perimeter player, she has to run point, she has to be a three and sometimes she has to post up,” Chiney said. “When she’s aggressive, we’re aggressive, when she’s locking down people on defense, we’re doing the same thing. She holds us accountable.”

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This game marked the return of Chennedy Carter, who had been sidelined with a knee injury for the past six games. She scored seven points and pushed the pace on plays. Seconds before the end of the first half, Carter sped in a driving layup to give the Sparks a 52-42 advantage.

Center Liz Cambage returned to gameplay after recovering from her third bout with COVID-19. She scored eight points and five rebounds after competing for under 16 minutes.

Sparks guard Jordin Canada (21) made six points and seven assists against the Atlanta Dream (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

“It’s vibes watching this team,” Cambage said. “I’m still trying to find my flow with my fitness and my lungs this season, but having teammates that push it and go hard, it lifts you up as well.”

The Sparks shot at 61.8 percent in the first half. They battled against the quickness of McDonald and the offensive pressure of Hayes. The physical matchup had several players hit the deck hard. Dream guard Erica Wheeler and Hayes even had to be subbed out after taking hard falls. Nneka also fell victim to a hard fall.

“It’s basketball, sometimes we’re mops, that’s what I like to call it,” Sykes said. “I’m proud of my teammates that when we did go down, we rushed over to each other.”

With her lone three-pointer during the matchup, Howard made her 58th three-pointer this season. This ties with Maya Moore for the most three pointers that a rookie has made in WNBA history.

With a 12-14 overall record, the Sparks are currently in sixth place in the league and remain in playoff contention. They now travel to battle the Las Vegas Aces on July 23 at 7:00P.M.

Categories: Basketball | Sports
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