(Los Angeles, CA-Staples Center)—With the fifth and final game of their first, and very productive (4-1) homestand, plus the always roaring and approving home crowd, the Sparks (5-2) were well-prepared to do battle against another Eastern Conference team, the Atlanta Dream, who came into the game with a (5-3) record and a 3-game win streak.
Also in attendance to televise one of its 54 scheduled WNBA games this season was the NBA-TV Network, bringing the increasingly popular league to growing home subscribers, as well as to younger followers who subscribe to the network or WNBA League Pass on a variety of multi-media platforms and devices.
Game Recap: 1st qtr—The start was good for both teams as they went back & forth. It was 14-11 Sparks at the 3:30 mark. Then the Dream went on an 8-0 run and went up by 4. Tiffany Hayes and Jessica Breland led the way. For the Sparks, Candace Parker had 8 while Nneka Ogwumike and Alana Beard both scored 4. Score: 23-21 Sparks.
2nd qtr— Cappie Pondexter started the Sparks off with a beautiful 17 ft. pull-up jumper from just left of the basket. Tiffany Hayes kept the Dream close with her slashing drives, keeping the score close, 27-26. Chelsea Gray was active on defense and dribbled from 3/4 court after a steal to score a driving lay-up, 29-26, with 5:36 left in the half. On the Sparks next possession, Candace Parker scored a field goal plus “And-1” on a drive, for a 32-26 lead. Gray then scored on a 10 ft. twisting jumper from the right side, 34-28. Continuing the unanswered run, Gray was fouled underneath & drew the foul, but missed the free throw. 36-28. A CP3 lay-up made it a 10 pt lead, 40-30. Then Riquna Williams hit a 3-pointer for a 13 pt. lead, 43-30. Angel McCoughtry finally broke the Dream’s scoring drought with 2 free throws, making the score (43-32) at Halftime.
3rd qtr— A big start by the Sparks was driven by a Candace Parker 3-pointer. Immediately following that was a Chelsea Gray drive, that gave the Sparks a 14 point lead, 48-34. Atlanta then went on a 6 -0 run to close the gap to 49-40 at the 5:36 mark. Tiffany Hayes then hit an 8 ft. jumper, 49-42. A Cappie Pondexter 7′ jump shot moved the score to 51-42. With 4:34 remaining, and to the huge delight of the 9,215 fans present, our “Co-play-of-the game” occurred when Riquna Williams scored a lay-up on a great 50′ pass from Chelsea Gray after she gained possession of a jump ball. On the next possession, Jantel Lavender then hit a jumper, 55-42. With 3:25 left, The Dream made another run and came back to cut the lead to 10 on a pair of free throws by Angel McCoutry. A long Imani McGee Stafford jumper cut it to 8. Essence Carson then countered with her second 3-pointer of the game, pushing the score to 58-47 at the end of the period.
4th qtr— Essence Carson hit her third 3 pointer of the game giving the Sparks the lead at 61-49. Atlanta rallied to draw close at 61-55 with 5 minutes left. Then Nneka Ogwumike buried a 3 pointer to boost the lead back unto 9, 64-56. Tiffany Hayes then hit a basket, cutting the lead to 64-58. Coach Agler then called a time out at 3:29 in the period to set his end of game strategy. Out of the time out, Alana Beard hit a timely jumper, 66-58. But the Dream hung in there as they traded baskets, moving the score to 68-62. After a Nneka Ogwumike basket, it was 70-62. With 1:04 left in the game, Atlanta dropped in 2 free throws, 70-64, managing to keep the deficit at 6 points.
To close out the game scoring, Odyssey Sims hit a runner in the lane for a 72-64 lead with just :41.1 left. And for good measure, on the Dream’s must-score possession with :37.1 seconds left, Essence Carson then aggressively swatted a corner 3-point shot attempt by Tiffany Hayes into the stands. This was our “Co-play of the Game.” After taking it out, the Dream couldn’t score on their final possession and with less than :20 secs remaining, the Sparks ran out the clock to secure the win. FINAL: Sparks 72, Dream 64.
Sparks Game StatLine: Nneka Ogwumike/11 pts/10/rebs (double-double)/1 steal; Candace Parker/18 pts (2-2/3 ptrs)/7 rebs/2 assts; Chelsea Gray/10 pts/3 rebs/7 assts; and Essence Carson/9 pts/2 rebs/2 assts/1 blk/(3-5/3 ptrs).
Next Up: The Sparks are off on the road for a short two-game trip vs. the Washington Mystics on Thursday, 6/14, at 7 pm, followed by a stop in Chicago on Sunday, 6/17 at 5 pm to take on the Sky. The team returns home for a single game on Tuesday, 6/19, versus the Indiana Fever at 7:30 pm.
Photo Gallery: Anthony Ramirez, East L.A. Sports Scene