Los Angeles, CA–Staples Center) Game Preview: The Sparks (13-8) returned home to a super loud “Camp Day” youth crowd looking to re-establish home court advantage and continue down the winning road. Coming in to face them were the Dallas Wings (11-8), led by two of the league’s Top 10 scorers in Liz Cambage/Australia/C/6-8/21.2 ppg) and All-WNBA veteran, Point Guard, Skylar Diggins-Smith/Notre Dame/5-9/19.5 ppg.
Game Recap: 1st Q–The Sparks didn’t get into full rhythm until Candace Parker began to heat up offensively. Nneka Ogwumike started fast scoring the team’s first six points. With 1 minute left in the period it was (19-16) Wings. Ogwumike stepped to the free throw line with :29.3 seconds left for a pair. She made only the first, (19-17). Another foul was called on the rebound and Essence Carson was sent to the stripe. She made both to tie the game at 19. The Wings shot 2 free throws to end the quarter, with a two-point advantage, (21-19). Of Significance…Alana Beard had to leave the game with a groin injury. She would not return.
2nd Qtr-–Wings hit the first 4 points to start the period (25-19) with 8:30 left. Chelsea Gray then hit a jumper to close it to four. Both teams started to trade baskets, as Jantel Lavender hit a runner for her first points of the game. The lead grew to 8 at (31-23) with 6:28 left in the half. CP3 broke the short drought with 2 free throws (31-25). But Liz Cambage kept scoring underneath and moved the score to 33-25 with 5:50 left. Riquna Williams then hit her first 3 pointer of the game, (35-28) Wings. She then hit her second 3 pointer on back-to-back possessions, closing it to four at (35-31). Subsequent baskets by CP3 & Odyssey Sims cut the lead again to four at (40-36). Nneka Ogwumike hit 2 free throws to cut the lead to just two, (40-38). Sims drove hard to the hoop after a steal of the Wings inbound pass. She made both to tie it at (40-40). Skylar Diggins-Smith then was fouled and made 1 free throw, (41-40), Wings. Maria Vadeeva then put the Sparks up with a put back. Of Significance…. An unexpected “double” technical foul was charged to Liz Cambage after a made basket for her 12th point. She was automatically ejected with 2:09 left in the half. Candace Parker made one the two technical foul shots tying the game at (43-43). CP3 then hit a lay-up giving the Sparks the lead at (45-43). The Wings then tied it after 2 made free throws. With 1:20 Diggins-Smith then hit a 14′ jumper in the key. Parker then tied it with a nice left-handed banker from the left side, (47-47). Nneka Ogwumike added an off-balance floater for two more, (49-47) with :28.1 left. A Wings free throw made it, (49-48). On one of the Sparks’ last possessions, CP3 was fouled on a drive with :05.3 left. She made one for a (50-48) advantage, Sparks.
HALFTIME SCORE: Sparks 50, Wings 48
3rd Qtr–The Wings scored first to tie it at 50. Now playing without their tall, and highly valuable 6’8″ center, Liz Cambage, the Wings felt the urgency to stay warm offensively until they could forge a hot spell. That’s when Skylar Diggins-Smith went to work and dropped in 3 out of 4 three pointers giving her 9 points in the quarter. At the 6:52 mark, the Wings took the lead and never looked back, although the game was still close at (57-55). Finally, the Sparks got back on the board at the 3:52 minute mark, when CP3 was fouled on a drive. She made one of two attempts giving her 21 points for the game. However, the Wings kept the offensive pressure on and closed out the period with a four point lead, (69-65).
4th Qtr–Riquna Williams stayed in her rhythm as she added her 13th point on a dribble drive, making it (69-67), Wings with 9:15 left. Then Williams hit a other 3 pointer. But, the Sparks offense disappeared in the critical stretch of time and the Wings took advantage, moving their lead to 10, (80-70). With 4:14 left, Coach Agler called a badly needed time-out, after the Wings scored again for a 12 point lead. The Sparks tried to rally at the 3 minute mark but gave up too many points in the paint after the Wings got the rebounds of their misses. At that point, it was all academic as the Dallas blew it open for a 20 point lead in closing out the game.
FINAL SCORE: Wings 92, Sparks 77. Attendance: 13,502 (Sell-out #2). The Sparks fell to (13-9) while the Wings improved to (12-8).
Sparks Game Stat-Line: Candace Parker/21 pts/7 rebs/2 assts/1 block; Riquna Williams/16 pts/4-6 3pt FGA/1 asst; Nneka Ogwumike/12 pts/2 rebs/3 assts/2 stls/1 block; Essence Carson/9 pts/5 rebs/5 assts/3 stls.
Wings Game Stat-Line: Skylar Diggins-Smith/22 pts/11 assts “double-double”)/4 stls; Liz Cambage/12 pts/6 rebs/1 blk; Azura Stevens/16 pts/6 rebs/2 blks/3 stls; Glory Johnson/11 pts/7 rebs/1 asst/2 stls.
Photo Gallery: Erik Sarni, East L.A. Sports Scene Productions