(Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA)— [Game Preview for 9/3] – The WNBA playoff bound Sparks (19-10) did not pay too much attention to the Atlanta Dream’s overall record of (7-24) on this “College Night” themed clash. On the contrary. They were laser-focused on earning another win and improving their record to one that would gain them a first-round “Bye” in the upcoming playoffs. Although the Sparks were playing without their leading scorer, Nneka Ogwumike, (resting – load management reasons), they were still prepared to increase their 11 home-court winning streak to 12 in the regular season, as they looked to register their 20th win of the season.
Game Theme: “College Night” / Attendance: 9,985
The Dream’s starting line-up consisted of: Brittney Sykes, Jessica Breland, Alex Bentley, Renee Montgomery, & Elizabeth Williams. The Sparks starters were: Candace Parker, Chelsea Gray, Chiney Ogwumike, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, & Riquna Williams.
Game Summary/(1st Qtr): At 5:51 the Sparks led (9-6). Both teams struggled to find a significant rhythm. Alex Bentley hit a 3-pointer for a (12-9) lead. Then CP3 answered with her own. (12-12). Chelsea Gray made a floater in the key, (14-12) for the Sparks lead. Elizabeth Williams, tied it with her deuce, (14-14). With 2:50 left it was (20-14) Dream. With 2:36 remaining, Maria Vadeeva and Alana Beard entered the contest. Point Guard, Alex Bentley scored a hoop, (22-14) until Vadeeva followed up after claiming two offensive rebounds and then scoring on a “put-back” cutting the margin to 11 at (22-16). The Dream’s Renee Montgomery drained a 3-pointer for a (25-16) lead. Bentley then drilled another jumper for a (27-16) tally to end the period. The previous Montgomery 3-pointer, after a review during the period break, was overturned and she was officially credited with only a 2 point field goal. The official score at the end of one, Dream 27, Sparks 16.
Photo Gallery Credits: Jerry Kelly/T.G.Sportstv1.
(2nd Qtr)—Maria Vadeeva was fouled in the act of shooting and made one, (24-17). But the Dream remained consistent on offense and scored for a (26-17) lead. Kalani Brown and Sydney Wiese were subbed in. Alana Beard then hit a 10′ jumper, (26-19). with 8:15 left in the half. C. Ogwumike was fouled in-the-act-of-shooting, and made 1, (26-20). On a forced turnover, Gray found a streaking C. Ogwumike down court for a fastbreak lay-in (26-22) with 6:50 left. C. Ogwumike then banked in a left hander from 8′ out. Gray then tied it up at (26-26) by converting a steal into a basket. The Sparks took the lead after a CP3 lay-up, (28-26). C. Ogwumike worked the offensive boards for a “put-back”, (30-26) with 3:59 left. Riquna Williams was reinserted into the game. Atlanta hit a 3-pointer for a (30-29) score. Alex Bentley then sank a 3-pointer with 2:35 left for a (32-30), Dream. C. Ogwumike kept the Sparks in the hunt with her 11th point on an underneath “put-back.” She stayed in her rhythm and hit again on another lay-up to tie it at (34-34). The Dream went to the free throw line for a pair with :36.3 seconds left. They made one for a (35-34) lead. The Dream held it for last shot but missed, ending the half.
HALFTIME SCORE: Atlanta 35 Sparks 34
(3rd Qtr)—The Sparks scored first on an assist from TRP to C. Ogwumike, racking up her 15th point of the game, (36-35), putting the Sparks in the lead once again. CP3 grabbed an offensive rebound for a “put-back”, (38-35). Jessica Breland hit a basket, (38-37). Then Maria Vadeeva found CP3 alone for a “back-door” lay-up (40-37). CP3 next returned the favor to Vadeeva for a lay-up, (42-38) with 4 minutes left in the period. Then the fans were treated to a repeat play from the previous possession, CP3 to Vadeeva, but this time for a trifecta from the far corner, (45-38). C. Gray put up a lay-in on a “dribble-drive” for a (47-38) lead. CP3 came up with a steal and the result was a “dish-off” to Gray for a 15′ jumper, (49-38). A time-out was called by the Dream with 2:16 left. Parker then scored on a beautiful “reverse-pivot” drive in the lane and was fouled. She missed the single free throw, (51-38). Renee Montgomery finally ended the Dream’s drought with a pair of free throws, (51-40). Montgomery then buried a deep trifecta from straight-away, (51-43). A Sparks shot clock violation gave the ball right back to Atlanta. This allowed Elizabeth Williams to score on a “tip-in” to close the stanza, at (51-45), Sparks.
(4th Qtr)— Maria Vadeeva opened the scoring with a basket, (53-46). A 3-point shot by Marina Mabrey was denied due to an offensive team foul by Vadeeva. The crowd roared its disapproval. The Sparks worked the shot clock down to perfection and then Chelsea Gray buried a straight-away 3-pointer for a (56-48) lead. A time-out was taken by Atlanta. Upon resumption of play, Kalani Brown gathered a missed Gray 3-point attempt, and earned herself 2 points from underneath, (58-48) with 4:52 left in game. The Dream countered with another 3-pointer closing it to (58-51). Another shot clock violation by the Dream, gave the ball back to the Sparks. CP3 was sent to the free throw line after being fouled on her drive to the basket. She made both for a (60-51) lead with 3:44 left. Monique Billings, a UCLA alum and 6’4 post player, in her second year with the team, nicely positioned herself in the key and scored on a “tip-in”, (60-53). Then CP3 went “1-on-1” and drew another shooting foul. A time-out was then called by Atlanta with 2:50 remaining. Parker came back and made both free throws for a (62-53) lead. Gray followed with a 15′ textbook “step-back” jumper from the right side, (64-53). Elizabeth Williams scored for the Dream on a lay-in “Plus 1” for a (64-56) scoreboard read. CP3 answered with an assist by TRP, (66-56) with 1:40 left. Candace claimed another career “double-double” when she grabbed an offensive rebound. She was fouled on the “put-back” and made both free throws, (68-56) with just 1:05 left. C. Ogwumike claimed a career “double-double” by duplicating the same feat that CP3 achieved moments earlier—offensive rebound and fouled on her “put-back”. Renee Montgomery answered with a 3-pointer, (70-58). She also closed out the game with an easy lay-up, (70-60), as the horn sounded to end the game.
Of Significance: Offense: Candace Parker led the team with 21 points, 6 assists, I blocked shot, and 11 rebounds. She was followed by Chiney Ogwumike with 17, as she played 27 minutes in backing up her sister at forward. Chelsea Gray, aka “Ms. Clutch”, who played the entire game and dropped in 15 points while adding 4 assists and 3 steals. Maria Vadeeva came off the bench to contribute 10 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in just 13 minutes of playing time.
FINAL SCORE: Sparks 70 Dream 60