Sparks clinch playoff spot in win over Fever

Chiney Ogwumike is guarded by Stephanie Mavunga. Maria Noble photo.
Chiney Ogwumike is guarded by Stephanie Mavunga. Maria Noble photo.

Los Angeles – The Los Angeles Sparks overcame a slow start to rout the Indiana Fever Thursday, 98-65, and clinch a spot in the WNBA playoffs.

Nneka Ogwumike led six Sparks players in double figures with 17 points, on a 50 percent shooting night for the team. The win was the tenth at home for Los Angeles – a mark they hadn’t hit since 2012. And along with other game results on the night, the win also helped propel the Chicago Sky into the playoffs for the first time in three years.

Los Angeles forward Candace Parker said regrouping after the first period was key to their strong finish.

“We were able to really maintain our focus,” Parker said. “I think a lot of it is just making sure that we are playing every position, doesn’t matter the score. But we definitely have to correct our starts. I think the starters have to do a better job of coming out and not getting down as early as we did even in the last four or five games, it’s been like that.”

The game marked the return of guard Riquna Williams, who had been suspended for 10 games after a domestic violence incident prior to the season. She started and scored 10 points. It was the first time this season that the Sparks have had all 12 players available for a match up.

“It’s a great thing to for the first time to be able to look down the bench and know that everyone’s available, and regardless of the situation you can call someone’s name and they can go into the game,” coach Derek Fisher said. “It’s a gift for us to have the roster we have and all the things we’ve gone through so far that’s prepared us now.”

The Fever dropped to 9-19 on the season, as they battle with three other teams for a playoff spot. Kelsey Mitchell had 14 points and Candice Dupree, 10. Mitchell said the team’s energy slipped after the first quarter.

“We have to stay focused and we have to do that in the game for 40 minutes,” she said. “As of late, we haven’t been doing that. So it’s harder with a veteran team like [the Sparks]. It just makes it more difficult and we have to stick to principles.”

Ogwumike is now at 3,999 career points. The Sparks, who now sit in fourth place, host the second-place Connecticut Sun Sunday.