(Los Angeles, CA.–Staples Center) Game Preview: After a two-game rest due to a lower back injury, Nneka Ogwumike, who was celebrating her birthday, returned to the starting line-up in the Sparks (11-5) rematch with the Las Vegas Aces (6-11). This time the Sparks were the home team after suffering their 5th loss of the season at the Aces’ hands on Friday, 6/29, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Game Recap: 1st Q–All Sparks starters scored in rhythm while racing out to an early lead against the Aces. At the 2 minute mark, the Sparks led 22-18. The pace was very fast and furious as Candace Parker/CP3 scored on an assist from Odyssey Sims, boosting the lead to 26-20. Sims then found Jantel Lavender on a beautiful assist for a lay-up, 28-20 Sparks, with just :22.0 seconds left in the period. Showing their hot shooting hands and tremendous hustle while putting up 30 points in the period, the Sparks played as though they were on a special mission to avenge their loss. Not to forget that the faithful fans were giving their 1,000% in cheers, passion, and support of their team. The score at the end of the first quarter was 30-20, Sparks.
2nd Q–Sparks kept up the offensive pressure jumping out to 15 point lead at 37-22 with 7:40 left in the half. Odyssey Sims’ play off the bench was the key to the Sparks rapidly increasing their momentum and scoring opportunities. Chelsea Gray doubled the score with a nice 3-point swisher from the left side. Odyssey Sims then followed that with her own jumper from the right side, 44-22. Nneka Ogwumike rose back to form on her drive to the hoop as she scored her 8th point of the game, moving the score and the advantage to 22 points at 46-24 with 5 minutes left in the half. Candace Parker was called for her 2nd personal foul and was taken out of the game with her team up, 52-34 and 2:20 remaining. Then Essence Carson buried a rainbow 3-pointer, 55-34 with 2:13 left. And the scoring kept coming as Riquna Williams hit a floater in the lane and Jantel Lavender’s basket moved the score to 59-36. The Aces’ first-half defensive lapses were evident as the Sparks shot and astounding 63% from the 3 point line, while making 7 of 11. TheSparks scored 29 points to 17 for the Aces in the quarter
HALFTIME SCORE: Sparks 59, Aces 37.
3rd Q–Ogwumike started the period scoring with 15′ jumper, 61-37. The defense was holding things down and was not allowing an Aces’ basket till rookie, A’ja Wilson hit one free throw, 63-38. Alana Beard then hit a jumper for a 65-38 lead. The lead drew to 16, 70-54 after baskets by Candace Parker who hit a 3 pointer and Jantel Lavender’s, patented 18′ jump shot, making the score 71-56 with :20 seconds left. Chelsea Gray’s step back jumper was not good at the end of the period. The score at the end of the quarter was 71-56 Sparks.
4th Q–Both teams were trading baskets for 2/3 of the period. At the 4 minute mark, it was 78-63 Sparks, then 82-66 after a Jantel Lavender jumper with 3:22 left. She added another long 2 pointer from the right side, 84-66 with 2:32 left. At this point, it was all academic as the Aces could not gather enough momentum to make any serious runs to cut into the big 15 point lead. Of Significance…Maria Vadeeva (5:24) and Karlie Samuelson (2:32) saw more minutes due to the wide margin in the point spread. Sydney Wiese is still on the injured list with a left knee sprain. Odyssey Sims sank 2 free throws with 1:08 left, to close out the game scoring for the Sparks and their 87-71 victory. Game Attendance: 12,003
Sparks Game StatLine: Jantel Lavender/17 pts/3 rebs/1 blocked shot; Chelsea Gray/13 pts/3-5 3 pt. attempts/6 assts/4 steals; Candace Parker/12 pts/6 rebs/4 assts; Nneka Ogwumike/12 pts/7 rebs/1 asst/3 steals; Alana Beard/4 pts/3 rebs/6 assts/3 steals.
Photo Gallery Credits: Anthony Ramirez, East L.A. Sports Scene Productions