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The Sparks Bring Winning Culture Back to Staples
By Amanda Scurlock, Sports Writer
Published June 22, 2017

Guard Chelsea Gray (12) scored 12points, five rebounds and two assists during the Sparks game against Phoenix. (Benita Wright/T.G. Sports tv1)

The Sparks fought to remain undefeated at home as they head to a three-game road trip to conclude gameplay in the month of June. Los Angeles will go into said road trip with an 8-3 overall record, pegging them at second in the WNBA standings.

On Sunday, Los Angeles routed a physical and gritty Phoenix Mercury squad 90-59. Reigning league MVP Nneka Ogwumike led the Sparks with 18 points. 2016 Finals MVP Candace Parker scored 17 points and eight rebounds.

Mercury star Diana Taurasi made 19 points and guard Leilani Mitchell earned seven rebounds.

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“Every time L.A. and Phoenix play, it’s sort of a rivalry,” said Sparks head coach Brian Agler. “It was really good to see a couple of things: one, us get off to a good start with our starters and then people coming in off the bench really contributing and not having a drop off.”

Sunday was a historical afternoon as Taurasi became the all-time leading scorer in the WNBA. Taurasi, a Glendale native, hit the milestone in the final seconds of the second quarter.

Phoenix could not stop the Sparks’ 15-0 run in the first   minutes of the first quarter, a move that solidified the Sparks’ dominance. Taurasi and forward Stephanie Talbot earned three fouls each.

The Mercury also suffered from having six turnovers in the first 10 minutes. As the game continued, more Sparks reserves got a chance to make a difference on the hardwood. Guard Riquna Williams scored a season high of 15 points, nine coming from three consecutive three-point shots in the fourth quarter.

“We all know what she’s capable of and she was able to knock it down,” said Chelsea Gray about Williams. “When she gets going, I don’t know when she’s gonna stop.”

Center Candace Parker scored 20 points in the Sparks win over the San Antonio Statrs. (Benita Wright/T.G. Sports tv1)

Phoenix could not get within 14 points of the Sparks, but the hard fouls kept coming. Center Brittney Griner, who currently leads the WNBA with 22.9 points per game this season, was held to 11 points.

Phoenix made 20 turnovers for 25 points during the game and never saw a lead. The contest was a far cry from the first meeting on June 10, which included nine lead switches.

The Spark’s spotless home record was threatened Thursday when Los Angeles defeated the San Antonio Stars 80-75. Parker scored 20 points and Ogwumike earned nine rebounds.

Guard Moriah Jefferson scored 24 points and center Isabelle Harrison earned eight points.

The Sparks led by as much as 22 points in the second quarter, shooting at 55.6 percent at the halftime mark. The Stars only earned 26 points in the first two quarters.

Jefferson came off the bench in the third quarter to reduce the Sparks’ 20-point lead to four within a span of five minutes. Center Jantel Lavender responded with three consecutive jump shots.

“I just came in and just did what I normally do for the team, just try to give us a spark,” Lavender said. “The shots were there and I knocked them down.”

Despite San Antonio’s come back, the Sparks remained in control during the second half.

Los Angeles will return to the Staples Center on July 2nd at 2:00pm to battle the contending Washington Mystics.

Categories: Basketball | Sports
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