(Staples Center)—The Sparks came into their third home game with a (4-3) record, and welcomed back its Tower of Power, Candace “CP3” Parker with open arms and high expectations. However, those expectations fell short as the Washington Mystics (4-3), spoiled her return to WNBA action, defeating them by the final score of (81-52). Note From the Editor: Our production includes a game write-up, our “up-close” photo gallery, and our “post-game” video player interviews with Chiney Ogwumike and Candace Parker. There’s also a post-game press conference with Head Coach Derek Fisher. If you would like to share your comments on the team with us, please do so by calling (323) 723-2830. Thanks in advance!
Game Summary: 1st Qtr—The Sparks got off to a very cold and rocky start against the visitors and were down (10-2) with 6:00 minutes left. Coach Fisher called a much-needed time-out to re-address his game plan. Its execution would remain to be seen. The score was then (13-3) with 3:57 left. The Mystics, led by Elena Delle Donne and former Spark, Kristi Toliver, displayed an extremely hot start on highly accurate 3-point shooting, as they boosted the score to (16-3). At the same time, the dreaded turnovers began to mount for the Sparks. Fans could see that Parker’s game rust, due to her 5 week hamstring injury and rehab period, was evident. At 2:17, it was (18-3) Mystics. At this point, Parker was subbed for by Chiney Ogwumike. The home crowd sat in stunned disbelief that their team had only scored a total of 3 points up to that juncture. Finally, Sydney Wiese hit 2 free throws to move the score to (20-5) with 1:20 left. Riquna Williams then hit a jumper for a (20-7) score. That was followed by a Wiese 3 pointer, making it (22-10) with :23 seconds to go. But, Toliver hit a “buzzer-beater” after gathering a Sparks turnover near their own basket to end the period, at (24-10).
2nd Qtr— Center, Kalani Brown started the period and hit 2 free throws after being fouled, moving the score to (29-12). Her attempts came after a Mystics 3 pointer. The Sparks defense was absent during stretches of time and allowed too many scoring dribble penetrations that went unguarded. Parker hit her first shot at the 7:17 mark, (33-15). Chelsea Gray followed that with a cork screw jumper, (33-17). Then a Parker steal gave the ball back to L.A. At 5:16 Nneka Ogwumike hit 2 free throws, making it (34-19). Of Significance….Washington had more points off turnovers, fastbreak points, 3 pointers, and free throws, while L.A. shot a miserable 23.5 field goal shooting percentage. The score was (38-21) at the 3:24 mark of the quarter. To characterize the Sparks bad luck, numerous lay-ups were missed at close range and a 3-point attempt came out after being inside the rim and the net at the 2/3 point of entry. The crowd could only gasp and “oooh” and “ahhh” in disbelief. “Lady Luck” for the Sparks certainly wasn’t present in this half. With 2:02 minutes left, the 6-5 Delle Donne scored 5 rapid-fire points on a lay-up and pull-up 3 pointer, moving the margin up to (46-24). Sparks Rookie forward, Marina Mabrey then hit a jump shot making the score (46-26). Delle Donne then hit another lay-up, (48-26). Nneka Ogwumike hit 1 of 2 free throws to close out the half’s scoring at (48-27).
HALFTIME SCORE: Mystics 48 Sparks 27
3rd Qtr...With 6:15 left the Mystics’ lead had grown to 24, (53-29). The Sparks were still very ice-cold, having shot a dismal 8 of 34 in field goal attempts. Washington was still shooting and hitting open 3 pointers. Their first half lead was traced to their seven 3-pointers matched up against the Sparks’ 1 for 11. After a 5-0 spurt from Nneka Ogwumike, a 3 pointer and a turn-around jumper by Chelsea Gray, the score was now reading (56-34). The score quickly widened to (60-34) and Coach Fisher had to stop their run by calling a time-out with 2:48 left. It was soon (60-38) with :45 seconds left. The period ended at (62-38).
4th Qtr—The score was (71-44) with 5 minutes left. It was then (74-49) with 3:11 remaining. From there on, it was all academic as Mystics Head Coach, Mike Thibault emptied his bench with all reserves getting valuable playing time. The Mystics had four players scoring in double figures, led by Ariel Atkins with 22, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (17), Kristi Toliver (12), and Tianna Hawkins (10). Their All-Star Forward, Elena Delle Donne finished with 9. Leading scorers for the Sparks were Nneka Ogwumike and reserve, Sydney Wiese, who both dropped in 12 points. Chelsea Gray added 8, and Chiney Ogwumike had 6. The Mystics put it on cruise control to finish out the game. Some “eye-brow” raising game stats in favor of the Mystics were their (13-28) 3-point FG attempts=46.4 %, (20) steals, and (5) blocked shots.Of significance...this was one of the Sparks most lopsided home defeats in the past four years. The team’s lack of consistent play was their downfall. Granted that it was Candace Parker’s first game of the season, and she will only improve as the season progresses. She is an ultimate professional competitor and will lead her team upward by example. As Coach Fisher said in his post-game interview, “It’s better that this type of game happened now. The upside is that we still have 26 more games to play.”
FINAL SCORE: Washington Mystics 81 / (5-3) Sparks 52 / (4-4).
NEXT UP: Two road games to finish the week. The first is this Friday, 6/21 @ Seattle, 7:00 pm tip-off and then Sunday, 6/23 @ Phoenix, with a 3:00 pm tip-off. They return home on Thursday, 6/27 to play the Las Vegas Aces at 7:30 pm.