(Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA)—[Game Preview, 9/8]: The theme for this final game of the regular season was “Fan Appreciation Day,” and the Sparks prepared for it with a mindset of maintaining their crowd-pleasing 13 game winning streak intact against the Minnesota Lynx. With the overall WNBA #3 seed already locked up, Head Coach Derek Fisher continued to keep his foot comfortably on the gas pedal and only stepped on it when needed. Therefore, he sent out his starting five of Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, Tierra Ruffin-Preatt (TRP), Riquna Williams, and Chelsea Gray. The Lynx countered with Sylvia Fowles, Napheesa Collier, Damiris Dantas, Odyssey Sims, and Danielle Robinson.
Game Summary: (1st Qtr) The Lynx came out with sudden grit and determination as they scored on a variety of moves. This powered them out a (13-6) lead with 4:41 left. The quiet Sparks offense was driven, at this time, only by N. Ogwumike, who scored the first four points. Then, CP3 scored on a turnaround baseline jumper. She came right back for an “And 1” to cut the margin to four, at (13-9) with 3:41 to play in the period. Damiris Danta hit a 3-pointer, moving it to (16-9) Lynx. Chiney Ogwumike entered the game at 1:59 left in the period. Chelsea Gray hit a 10′ jumper from the baseline (16-11). She repeated the score with a fadeaway 8′ jumper, (16-13), Lynx. CP3 hit a 5′ baby jumper in the key, (16-15). Kalani Brown entered the game to gather valuable playing minutes in the post. Chelsea Gray kept her scoring clinic alive with another mid-range 12′ jumper, (17-16). This was the Sparks first lead of the game. Then after a time-out and just 00:3 seconds left on the game clock, Gray took the inbound pass near the left free throw line extended and scored on an incredible, if near impossible “spot-up” jumper, a split-second before the buzzer sounded. The roar of approval from the crowd was deafening. This made the score, Sparks 19, Lynx 16. The play was automatically placed under review by the officials. Result was: “basket stands.” And for openers, that ended the 1st quarter of play.
(2nd Qtr)—The Sparks defense took center stage when Alana Beard cleanly blocked a lay-in. A beautifully timed “give-n-go” basket by Sydney Wiese, tied it up at (21-21). Danielle Robinson hit a 5′ base line jumper, but Wiese tied it again with a 15′ jump shot. (23-23). Time-out was called by the Lynx. Then Lynx forward, Temi Fagbenle, got it going by scoring a couple of quick baskets. N. Ogwumike took a Riquna Williams miss from the corner and turned it into a 5′ scoring jumper, (29-27), Lynx. CP3 grabbed an offensive board and then fed the cutting S. Wiese. The Lynx’s, Lexie Brown, answered with a 3-pointer, (32-29). Riquna hit a straightaway trey to tie at (32-32). Following that, Riquna, after recovering a loose ball, found N. Ogwumike underneath for an uncontested lay-up. She then found CP3 unguarded for another quick basket, (36-32), Sparks. The Lynx were forced to call a time-out with 1:02 remaining. A shot clock violation was committed by the Lynx with :47.6 seconds left in the half but the Sparks then turned it back over again when N. Ogwumike was called for an offensive foul. The whistle sounded again on Nneka as Odyssey Sims was fouled in the act of shooting. She made both for a (36-34) score. A Wiese jumper from the corner missed as the clock ran out.
HALFTIME SCORE: Sparks 36 Lynx 34
PHOTO GALLERY CREDITS: Erik Sarni, East L.A. Sports Scene Productions
(3rd Qtr)—Riquna Williams hit a trey and the Sparks faithful took their seats as per each game’s 3rd quarter ritual. Williams showed signs of breaking open the game with her rapid-fire “back-to-back” 3-pointers, (42-34), Sparks. Lynx immediately called a time-out to stop the run. Napheesa Collier then hit her own “back-to-back” shots, making it (42-38). Gray then hit a 45 degree angled jumper from 18′ out, (44-38). Another crowd pleasing 3-pointer by Riquna plus an “And-1” counted for a rare 4-point play, (48-38). Seimone Augustus answered with a put-back (48-40). CP3 got loose for an easy lay-up, (50-42). N. Ogwumike hit a nice floating jumper after a great “over-the-head” dish by Gray, (52-42). Odyssey Sims then scored on a lay-up (52-44). Wiese and C. Ogwumike subbed in with 1:34 remaining. Chelsea then hit a nice 15′ jumper from straightaway. N. Ogwumike took a phenomenal pass from Gray-aka by East L.A. Sports Scene – “The Magician”, and scored on a lay-up, (58-46), as the crowd rose to its feet in appreciation. Lexie Brown hit a drive, (58-48) that ended the period.
(4th Qtr.)—Coach Fisher rested starters Riquna Williams and Candace Parker. He went with Wiese, Beard, Brown, Gray, and C. Ogwumike, perhaps experimenting with this line-up for the playoff series. There was no scoring until Nneka grabbed an offensive board and scored it for an “And 1”, making the free throw (61-48). Sylvia Fowles, who powered the offense all game-long for then Lynx, was fouled in the act of shooting. She made 1 for a (61-49) score. She quickly grabbed another offensive rebound as several Sparks defenders were all over her. She was fouled by C. Ogwumike as she went up. She made one, (61-50). Napheesa Collier added another 3-pointer to her game totals, (61-53). A media time-out was called with 6:13 left. C. Ogwumike then scored on a dribble-drive, finishing her shot with a finger roll (63-53). Lexie Brown hit her specialty shot, a 30′ trifecta, moving the score to (63-56). C. Ogwumike, still working diligently for positioning on missed shots, then crashed the boards for a nice put-back, (65-56). Brown kept the score within range with 2 free throws (65-58). C. Ogwumike then hit her third field goal in-a-row for a (67-58) margin. With her defensive fire still “white hot”, C. Ogwumike dove on the floor for a loose ball, which then became a jump ball. As a result of winning the tip, Marina Mabrey hit a left handed lay-in. That was followed by N. Collier, for a score underneath, (69-60). Damiris Dantas buried a trifecta to cut the lead to only six, (69-63). Kalani Brown was fed by Alexis Jones who scored on a power move, (71-63). N. Collier then scored on a turnaround jumper in the key, (71-65). With 2:16 left in the game, and after a time-out was called by the Sparks, Mabrey buried a 3-ball, (74-66). She then hit another trifecta with just 27.5 seconds left in the game, sealing the Sparks 14th consecutive home game victory (77-68) with :27.5 seconds left in the game.
FINAL SCORE: Sparks 77 Lynx 68 ATTENDANCE: 13,500 (Sellout)
NEXT UP: Seattle Storm, a WNBA 2nd Round Single Elimination Game. Tip-off this Sunday, 9/15 at 12 Noon. Sellout Expected. Seattle defeated the Minnesota Lynx to advance to this Round.