Sparks use strong second half to take down Mercury, 79-66

Los Angeles – The Los Angeles Sparks overcame a slow start to pull away from the Phoenix Mercury in the fourth quarter and win, 79-66, in the first game of the WNBA playoff semifinals Tuesday.

Nneka Ogwumike led the way for the defending champion Sparks with 19 points, as the rest of the starting five also scored in double figures, including Candace Parker’s 15 points and Chelsea Gray’s 13.

The game was a start-and-stop affair where officials made 46 foul calls and assessed three technical fouls, all on the Mercury. Center Brittney Griner, who had 18 points for the visitors, and Camille Little, who grabbed 11 rebounds, fouled out of the game, as did reserve Emma Cannon. Leilani Mitchell scored 19 points.

After going into the halftime break tied at 42, Los Angeles outscored their opponents in the third quarter, 14-6. They carried that momentum into the final period to seal the win.

Game two of the series tips off Thursday night at Cal State Long Beach.