Los Angeles – The Los Angeles Sparks used a second-half push to burst past the surging Connecticut Sun, 87-77, Thursday and stop a two-game losing skid.
Nneka Ogwumike scored a season-high 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Los Angeles, while Candace Parker had 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Chelsea Gray had 17 points and Riquna Williams 10 for the defending champions, who halted Connecticut’s five-game winning streak.
The Sun got out to a blistering start on 58 percent shooting in the first quarter, and they led the Sparks, 32-18 at the end of the period. The host then outscored the visitors, 51-25 over the next two quarters to take a 69-57 lead into the final stanza.
Jonquel Jones, who fronted Connecticut’s effort with 20 points, scored 11 in the fourth quarter to spearhead a comeback that saw the young team hold Los Angeles to 37.5 percent shooting. But though they outscored them in the period, 20-18, it wasn’t enough.
Jasmine Thomas scored 14 points for the Sun, while Alex Bentley added 11 and Courtney Williams, 10.
Sparks coach Brian Agler credited Connecticut, and cited his team’s lack of defense in the first period.
“Our defense started getting better there in the second quarter,” he said. “We had a lot of people who are good on-ball defenders. They have good We were happy that after the first quarter they didn’t get a lot of threes to go down because they are an excellent three-point shooting team. And we are really happy about how we eliminated their second chance point opportunities, they didn’t get many offensive boards.”
Connecticut coach Curt Miller said playing the second of back-to-back games effected his team.
“We played really well in the first quarter and showed that we were ready, but we ran out of a bit of gas,” Miller said. “Credit to them – they’re a championship team and they broke us down. We had some missed assignments and then our shots stopped falling, and that put us in transition defense a lot, so we just couldn’t get our half-court defense set when we weren’t making shots in those middle quarters.”
The 13-5 Sparks are now 1.5 games behind the league-leading Minnesota Lynx, and 1.5 games ahead of third place Phoenix. The Sun, now 11-8, drop to fourth in the standings after beginning the season in the bottom quarter of the league with a four-game losing streak. They still lead the Eastern Conference.