(East Los Angeles, CA) [From The Editor’s Desk]: The Crypto.com Arena admirably and very credibly withstood its first official L.A. Sparks game of the 2023 season, and from the roars of approval that the huge crowd and fans showed to its much-loved team now back in action, it was absolutely an astonishing, breathtaking, and at the same time, a very surreal experience for Sparks basketball fans and the media groups who were present covering the team.
Quite frankly for this type of scenario, only here in the City of Angels, could the L.A. Sparks crowd witness and collectively greet the Vice-President of our country, Kamala Harris, as she walked by herself onto the Crypto.com Arena court just before tip-off and received her official Sparks #49 jersey at half-court from Captain and WNBA perennial All-Star, Nneka Ogwumike.
From that moment on and throughout the game, the Crytpo.com Arena environment was 100% electric as the full ESPN media package telecasting the game nationally was going full force and in rhythm with the 10,000+ fans in attendance who showed their dynamic and enthusiastic support of the team. Several of the Lakers great Championship personnel from Magic Johnson, to Pau Gasol, and Robert Horry were noted in the crowd. Also, UCLA alum and Clippers guard, Russell Westbrook was at courtside.
COMMISSIONERS CUP -Game #1
[1st Qtr]: For the Mercury, the WNBA’S all-time leading scorer, #3/Diana Taurasi, looked even younger than her age, as she dropped in (9) of the Mercury’s first (15) points of the quarter. In her first regular season game, #42/Brittney Griner chimed in with (4) points and a handful of rebounds in support of Taurasi at the midway point in the quarter.
The Sparks, suited up in their uniforms with Black & Gold trimming, were slow to start their offensive engines, while the Mercury were cooking with extreme heat right off the first possession. This start resulted in several consecutive baskets. Add a little salsa ranchera to their diet for baskets, and they rolled up a (12-5) lead by the (5:00) minute mark. It was (16-7) Mercury, at the (3:45) mark remaining in the period, as they were playing up-tempo in good, and quick transitions. Taurasi had (9) quick points and Griner had (4), along with (4) rebounds, and (2) blocked shots, to lead their team’s stats for the period.
Meanwhile, the Sparks shooting guard, #4/Lexie Brown, had the steady and “hot” hand in the period as she swished in “back-to-back” 3 pointers while #30/Nneka Ogwumike had (4) points. Brown’s 3-pointers were big to keep close and with (2:00) minutes left in the period, the Sparks had rallied to within (3) points at (20-17). They traded baskets to end the quarter with the score (22-19) in favor of Phoenix.
[2nd Qtr]: Rookie #1/Zia Cooke put in 6 quick points on an “And-1”, which was then followed by a 3-pointer. That pulled the Sparks even at (28-28). The Sparks then took their 1st lead at (30-28) after making 2 free throws by #44/Karlie Samuelson. It was soon tied at (30-30) with (6:40) left in the half. New addition and veteran WNBA player, #25/Layshia Clarendon, then hit a 3-ball for a (33-30) lead. The crowd got going even more when Cook hit a floater in the key and was fouled for a traditional 3 point play. She made the free throw for a (36-30) lead. A Media Time-out was called at (5:38). After play resumed, the Mercury shot 3-free throws after a shooting foul and made them all to close the gap to (36-33). Samuelson returned to the free throw line and made two shots. That was quickly followed by a #30/N. Ogwumike score inside and that made it (40-35) with (3:45) left. Another time-out came at (2:56) with the score favoring the Sparks at (42-37). With (2:00) minutes left, it was (45-39) L.A.
Then Cooke, lighted the crowed up with another trey that moved the score to (48-39). In rapid fire, the Ogwumike sisters took over and first Nneka dropped in a basket stretching the lead to (50-39), followed immediately by younger sister, Chiney, who added a bucket for a double figured (13 point) lead at (52-39). It was then (52-41) with (00:15) seconds left, when #21/Jordin Canada hit a “buzzer beater” ending the first half.
N. Ogwumike finished the half with (11) points, (2) rebounds, (1) assist, (1) steal, and (1) blocked shot. But it was Cooke’s (14) points on (5-5) shooting and (2-2) 3-point shooting, along with (2) assists, and (1) steal from off the bench that ignited the team’s offense and definitely wowed the large, joyous crowd and fanbase.
[HALF-TIME SCORE]: Sparks 54 Mercury 41
[3rd Qtr]: After five lightning quick points to open the second half, it was Sparks (59-41). The Ogwumikes were still in rhythm and exchanged scoring opportunities again with consecutive baskets. Canada was right there with them as she scored again, moving the score and the margin well into the high teens at (61-43) with (6:47) left. Then C. Ogwumike fired up a perfect 3-ball for a score, causing the Mercury to call a Time-out at (6:20) left in the quarter with the score now reading (64-43), Sparks.
#30/N. Ogwumike then followed with 2 made free throws for 66 points. And with (4:42) left, #13/C. Ogwumike made a put-back at 68 for a 20+ point lead with (3:28). Next, 3-point specialist, Samuelson notched a long one for (71) with (2:10) left. With (2:00) minutes left, #21/Canada hit a jump shot for a score of (73-51). The Mercury’s #3/D. Taurasi led her team with (15) points, while Griner had (11) to go along with (6) rebounds up to that point in the game.
[4th Qtr]: Another Sparks newcomer, acquired in the off-season from the Las Vegas Aces, center, #5/Dearica Hamby took advantage of good playing time in the period and produced numbers on both offense and defense. She quickly made a lay-up and earned an assist to N. Ogwumike for a (75-57) margin. Hamby made another free throw followed by a N.Ogwumike lay-up, for a (78-57) score with (7:47) left. Fouled on another 3 point attempt was #4/L. Brown, who converted all 3 of her free throws. A Media Time-Out was called at the (5:52) with the score, (81-62) Sparks. Canada, N. Ogwumike, Hamby and #24/Joyner Holmes finished off the scoring for the going-away victory.
[FINAL SCORE]: Sparks 94 Mercury 71 [ATTENDANCE]: 10,396
[OF SIGNIFICANCE]: There was lots of team hustle and extra efforts for Karen Bryant, CAO & GM, Coach Miller and his Staff, to all appreciate, even with a 20+ lead for a good part of the game. The Sparks showed a fantastic all-around team effort from the start to the finish. Multiple players scored in double figures, while playing good “lock down” defense from the second quarter, through the entire 2nd half of the game. Although it was truly a great night to Welcome #42/Brittney Griner back into her role on the Phoenix Mercury, and as a Super Star in the WNBA, she played well enough despite enduring her long year away from the WNBA due to her situation that occurred in Russia.
[NEXT UP]:The Sparks play the Las Vegas Aces in a road game on Saturday, 5/27 at Las Vegas. Tip-off is set for 6:00 pm|PT and can viewed on Spectrum SportsNet and NBA TV.
[Special Note From The Editor]: The first Las Vegas Aces game was played on 5/25 at Crypto.com Arena. Our usual Game Summary with Photo Gallery will be published shortly.