Uncasville, Conn. – In a match-up between the Los Angeles Sparks and Connecticut Sun, it was the Sparks who brought the proverbial heat Tuesday, taking care of the hosts, 87-79, and extending their winning streak to six.
Reigning MVP Nneka Ogwumike once again led all scorers with 21 points and nine rebounds, marking the ninth time this season she has eclipsed the 20-point threshold. She was also one of five Sparks players to finish in double figures: a testament to just how potent their offense can be.
“It felt like a normal night. I think we did a really good job of getting what we wanted on the offensive end, so I try my best to finish as best I could,” Ogwumike said.
Los Angeles began the game strong – especially Ogwumike, who shot a perfect 6-for-6 from the field while pacing them to a ten-point advantage following one quarter of play. They stretched their lead out to 13, which gave them a cushion when Connecticut narrowed the margin back down to six as the opening half came to close.
But as in their last game, the Sparks had a strong third quarter, opening with a 16-5 run. They built their lead to as much as 19.
“I thought we played pretty consistent tonight. I think our defense is getting better,” Los Angeles coach Brian Agler said. “When we get stagnant, we quit scoring, so we have to keep the ball moving and keep our people moving and when we do that we execute well. We are moving in the right direction.”
Despite a 10-3 record, Sparks forward Candace Parker was hesitant to talk potential, saying there is still a lot of season left to play.
“I think we are still far away from where we can be, which is great for us,” said Parker, who scored 14 points on the night. “I think we are still working on controlling the game, knowing situations and getting stops when we need to, which includes blocking out. I love where we are headed. If we were as good as we were going to be right now I would be a little worried.”
Jasmine Thomas led the Sun with 19 points, while Courtney Williams added 14. Jonquel Jones had 13 points and 17 rebounds, and Alyssa Thomas had 13 points and 11 rebounds. This was Connecticut’s second consecutive loss following a five-game winning streak.
Even though they were able to narrow the early deficit, Sun coach Curt Miller attributed the loss to the rough opening quarter.
“I thought tonight, coming into the game, a big part of the game was going to be to grind and just stay in the game,” he said. “We talked as a staff about how important this first quarter was going to be for confidence, but also for a little momentum. To feel good about playing against them. We had a difficult first quarter, but I appreciated that that they kept grinding. We got it to seven at one point in the fourth quarter, did some good things throughout the game, but just felt like we were always climbing uphill after that first quarter.”
“The other thing is too many points given up on live ball turnovers. Between turnovers, them getting out and running on turnovers, and a lot of missed shots in the paint, we just played too much in transition against that high-powered offense.”
Jones echoed Miller’s sentiments, saying the team needs to do a better job in the beginning of each quarter.
“(We need to) be prepared to finish,” she said. “(We need to work on) a lot of stuff – staring quarters well. There’s a lot of stuff to learn from and a lot of work to do. First quarter is definitely something that I can get better at personally.”
The Sparks will now look to make it seven in a row when they visit the Atlanta Dream on Friday, while the Sun host the Seattle Storm on Thursday.