(Los Angeles, CA – Staples Center)—The Sparks, now (7-6) and winners of three in-a-row, had a week off to prepare for this huge match-up with the Washington Mystics, coming into the game with a top WNBA record of (9-3). Recalling that they were held to a season low in scoring with only 50 points in their last encounter on 6/18, the Sparks were dead-set on pay-back, but with an exclamation point for emphasis, as they put up a season-high (98) points in front of 10,336 fans in their big rematch win. Final thoughts on this game day—the Sparks paid an enormous tribute to Leslie Leslie on her Birthday. And the 3 x WNBA Champions team celebrated the fact that they were the first to reach a total of 450 team wins as a franchise member. Settle in and take a look at our production package.
Note From The Editor: We present our write-up, a big 100+ photo gallery, and locker room interviews with Tierra Rufffin-Pratt, Nneka Ogwumike, and Chelsea Gray. To conclude our posting, join us in the post-game interview room for the new Sparks media standard, Head Coach Derek Fisher’s Press Conference. We close out everything with our court-side recap.
NBA Players’ Courtside Watch: Montrezl Harrell, L.A. Clippers/Center/Louisville Cardinals and Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks/Point Guard/Oklahoma Sooners
1st Qtr—Nneka Ogwumike started strong offensively as she put up the first 8 points for the Sparks. It was (10-9) with 4:22 left in the period when N. Ogwumike hit her second 3-pointer, (13-9). Ariel Atkins broke the run with a jumper. Riquna Williams, inserted into the starting line-up once again by Coach Fisher, then hit her first shot of the contest, (15-11). Sydney Wiese subbed in at 3:07. Chelsea Gray brought a big cheer from the crowd on a twisting drive and then hit the shot before hitting the hardwood. Mystics dropped in 2 freethrows, (17-13), but Williams came back with her first 3-pointer, (20-13). She then hit her second trifecta, (23-17) with 1:25 left. The Mystics hit free throws to stay within range. Kalani Brown entered the game. A rare illegal defense was called on Washington. Chelsea Gray hit the Technical free throw for a (29-21) lead. With a :13 seconds left, they missed two shots as time ran out, (29-21), Sparks.
2nd Qtr—To start the stanza, Kalani Brown blocked a shot & started a fast break. After grabbing an offensive board, C. Ogwumike was in some rough paint area for a credited rebound, but still managed to power it up for a hoop, (31-21). A great steal by Alana Beard gave the ball back to the Sparks but failed to score. On the next possession, Gray drove the lane for a bucket, (33-21). After two more Mystics free throws, Sydney Wiese hit a 3 pointer. CP3 returns to the game with 7:17 left. Beard scored again on a mid-range jumper, (38-26), and then came right back with a beautiful uncontested drive to the basket, (40-28). A Media timeout was called. After that, the Mystics scored, cutting the lead to (40-30). Kristi Toliver then hit a 3-pointer, after the Sparks left her open at the top of the key. With 4:54, it was (40-33), Sparks. At the 4:40 mark play was stopped when Tianna Hawkins hotly confronted Riquna Williams, who stood her ground, resulting in a double technical foul. In a “first-time ever” Sparks moment, Coach Fisher was assessed a Technical Foul as was Mystics Head Coach Tom Thibault. All four Techical fouls cancelled each other out and play resumed with 4:40 left. Aerial Powers hit basket for a (40-35) margin. TRP then hit a short turn-around jumper in the key for a (42-37) lead. A technical foul was assessed to TRP. Toliver then hit a bucket on the ensuing possession, (42-39). Sparks called a timeout and then Williams lofted an arcing 3-pointer which hit “nothing-but-the-bottom-of-the-net” to coin the old playground saying, (45-39). Then N. Ogwumike hit her 3rd trey (48-39). Powers kept her hot hand for Washington as they fought back to keep things close, (48-42). After a “loose-ball” over-the-back foul was charged to Powers, it was Sparks ball with 2 minutes remaining. Chelsea Gray then shot and hit a rainbow 2o’ two pointer, then Kristi Toliver answered with her own, (51-44). Both teams missed on consecutive possessions until Toliver hit a fadeway jumper, (51-46). Sparks had the last shot of the period, but a 5 second inbounding violation erased that. So with :10 seconds left, the Mystics inbounded in their backcourt but failed to capitalize on their attack as the first half ended. Of significance...The Mystics All-Star player, Elena Delle Donne played only 1 minute of the half due to an inadvertent facial blow she received. She went to the locker room for medical observation and treatment.
HALTIME SCORE: Sparks 51 – Mystics 46
Photo Gallery: Erik Sarni
3rd Qtr—Tierra Ruffin-Pratt hit the Sparks first shot of the period and then came back with a fast break hoop, (55-46). Chelsea Gray was credited with an acrobatic assist on a fast break pass to a hustling N.Ogwumike for a score, (57-46). It all started with a defensive board by CP3. She hit her first basket of the game for an “And 1” with 5:46 left (60-46). Center, Latoya Sanders broke the run with a basket, (60-48). N. Ogwumike was fouled in the act of shooting after another great entry pass from Gray. She made both to give her (21 pts) in the game. TRP then hit a wide open 3-ball on an unbelievable assist from Gray who made the pass while falling to the floor (65-48). Needless to say the crowd roared its approval. Aerial Powers was still active on offense. CP3 then found N.Ogwumike for an easy basket. Gray then followed with a lay-up to give her (10) points to go with her (10) assists. Then a repeat happened when CP3 earned an assist on a N.Ogwumike basket for a score, (71-54). Gray buried a 3 pointer for a 10 point lead led (74-54). Atkins hit a 3, (74-57) with 15 secs. left to end the quarter.
4th Qtr—Urged on by the House DJ, the 10,000+ fans turned their cell phone lights and created a dramatic scenario in the game, as the Sparks took the ball out to start the period. But, the Mystics scored 1st. They added another basket, cutting the lead to just nine, (74-65). Then Sydney Wiese answered with a 3 ptr. (77-65). Again, Nneka went to the perimeter for her third 3 pointer, (81-71) CP3 was fouled on a put-back, earned 2 free throws but missed both at 5:21 left. CP3 was fouled again but this time she made both, (83-74). Kristi Toliver answered with a 10′ baseline jumper, (83-76). Riquna Williams then hit a most timely 3-pointer, moving the lead back up to (86-76) with 3:42 left in game. Timeout called by the Mystics. When play resumed Williams hit another crowd-pleasing trey, (89-76). But Aerial Powers, who was high-point player for the Mystics, finished off her day with 24 points, hitting a 3-ball, and cutting the margin to only ten, (89-79). After a Media timeout with 2:39 left, once it was “All-Academic” for the Sparks as they added 9 more points and coasted to their third home court victory in a row.
FINAL SCORE: Sparks 98 – Mystics 81
NEXT UP: Road trip beginning with the Dallas Wings on Tuesday, 7/9 at 10 am. This will be followed by a Friday, 7/12 game against Indiana Fever at 4 pm. The final game will be played on Sunday, 7/14 vs. the Atlanta Dream at 12 noon. Sparks next home game will be on Thursday, 7/18/ against the Dallas Wings at 12:30 pm. Please note the early tip-off time.