Los Angeles, Calif. – The Los Angeles Sparks overcame a slow first half Sunday to put away the Connecticut Sun, 80-73.
Nneka Ogwumike lead the Sparks with 27 points, while Essence Carson and Candace Parker each added 10. Ogwumike’s sister Chiney headed up the Sun’s efforts with 16 points.
Los Angeles earned a league-best 13-1 record with the win, as the Minnesota Lynx were routed by the Washington Mystics for their second consecutive loss. The Sparks beat Minnesota by 18 points two days earlier in an emotional showdown before an arena packed with 13,000 Lynx fans.
The hosts got off to a slow start against Connecticut in the first quarter, and were outscored in the second. The Sun lead 38-36 at halftime. Los Angeles then opened up the third period with a 9-0 run.
Connecticut made a final push with just over two minutes remaining, as Alex Bentley hit a three-point shot to bring them within five points. But Parker made back-to-back baskets to ignite a run that carried the Sparks through the final buzzer.
Both teams matched up evenly in points and rebounds, but the Sun outscored the Sparks in the paint, and on fast break points.
The Sparks’ Ogwumike said the team had to come down from Friday’s win quickly to be ready to face Connecticut.
“Preparing for this game was both a physical and a mental preparation,” Ogwumike said. “You have to take care of yourself. Emotionally, coming off a win like that, you don’t want it to disrupt the flow of what’s ahead of you. I think we did a good job of understanding what we just did, but we had a few mental lapses that lead to physical lapses today.”
Los Angeles forward Jantel Lavender echoed the sentiments, and said the Sparks will have to continue their quick recovery tactics with home games every other day this week.
“It was pretty overwhelming beating them like that,” Lavender said of Minnesota. “Some of us – not Nneka – felt our legs today, but that’s normal. We just have to really focus on getting rest and doing what we need to do to be ready for the next game.”
Chiney Ogwumike said she had challenges both in playing her sister and in facing the Sparks.
“We know each other’s game, but it’s hard at this level because you have so many
schemes,” she said. “You think about guarding Kristi Toliver, helping out on the pick-and-roll and then you think about Candace Parker behind on a mismatch. Then you realize your sister
is playing and you’re guarding her too. It’s hard, but at the same time we know each
other’s game more than anyone else, which is why we got stops on each other.”
Nneka was good-natured about the match up, as usual.
“It’s always good playing Chiney,” she said. “She played well today, too. I cheer on my sister from afar. Not today though.”
Nneka Ogwumike has been a scoring force for Los Angeles of late, earning Western Conference player of the week earlier this month. She said she has developed her offense over the last year.
“I think I’m really developing a comfort in being an offensive threat out there,” she said. “When I’m overseas I’m shooting it from all over the place, and I think that’s slowly coming now here.”