Sparks race past Mystics, 97-86

Washington, D.C. – Despite a valiant comeback attempt by the Washington Mystics, the Los Angeles Sparks closed out strong Friday to take a 97-86 win.

Candace Parker led the Sparks with a near triple-double of 23 points, a career-high 11 assists and seven rebounds, while Odyssey Sims scored 16 points and Riquna Williams, 15. Elena Delle Donne carried the Mystics with 18 points, and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and LaToya Sanders added 14 and 12 points, respectively, with Sanders also grabbing 11 rebounds.

Los Angeles coach Brian Agler attributed his team’s win to their defensive play.

“I thought we did a really good job on (Washington guard) Kristi (Toliver),” Agler said. “She’s not the easiest person to defend…Odyssey and Riquna both chased her around, and we made it as difficult as we could. We didn’t do as well in the pick-and-roll defense as we would’ve liked, so there’s some things we’re going to work on.”

Williams produced in just 13 minutes off of the bench for the visitors. She shot 100 percent from the floor, hitting four three-point shots. And she did it while guarding the usually-high-scoring Toliver, who shot 33.3 percent on the night and missed all four three’s that she attempted.

“That’s just a small snippet of what [Williams] can do,” Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike said. “Not only is she affecting what we do on offense, she’s also growing a defensive impact, as well.”

As for the home team, the game flowed exactly opposite of Wednesday’s win over the Connecticut Sun, where they built a 30-point lead in the first half only to see it diminish in the third and fourth quarters.

“We were a step behind the whole first half, and that carried over to our offense because we were taking it out of the net too many times,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. “I thought our offense was better in the second half…but I’m disappointed in how we played defense tonight, and how we played defense in the second half against Connecticut.”

Los Angeles visits the Chicago Sky Sunday, while the Mystics host the Sky Tuesday.