Los Angeles snaps their two-game losing skid in win over old-time rival Minnesota Lynx.
The Los Angeles Sparks rout the Minnesota Lynx in an 81-71 win behind a huge second-quarter performance from Alexis Jones and another double-double game from Candace Parker.
Parker finished the game with her third double-double of the season with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists. Jones had a career-high 15 points, all in the first half, to go along with two rebounds against her former team.
The opening two minutes of play were cold for both teams in the first quarter on the offensive end until Lynx rookie Napheesa Collier scored the first two points of the game. The Sparks gradually got going in the first quarter as Parker was able to open the game for the team in scoring back-to-back shots to put them on top early on.
In recent games, the Sparks haven’t had momentum moving in their favor as they have found themselves playing from behind, but against the Lynx, they managed to build it up early to sustain throughout the game.
“As the offense came along, combined with good defense that they started playing with, they were able to put it together as the first quarter ended and then leading into the second quarter,” Sparks head coach Derek Fisher said about the team creating momentum after the slow first quarter start.
Los Angeles ended the first quarter on an 8-1 run utilizing their time at the free-throw line while shooting 31.2 percent from the field.
The Sparks began the second quarter going back and forth with the Lynx in a game of runs. Both teams had 7-0 runs in the quarter, but on the Sparks’ side, Jones had scored eight points off the bench, five during the Sparks’ run. Jones’ scoring burst against her former team brought needed energy for the Sparks to extend their early lead.
In 11 minutes of play in the first half, the former Lynx player had 15 points on 5-6 shooting from the field with 14 in the second quarter.
Jones has been able to fit into the backup point guard role well when needed to alleviate Chelsea Gray’s time on the floor since coming back from injury.
“I just played my role. [I] came off the bench, brought high energy, [and] shot the right shots just so I could help the team out,” Jones said about her overall performance.
Interestingly, Jones and Sydney Wiese were drafted a pick apart from one another in the 2017 draft to Minnesota and Los Angeles respectively. The two years later, the pair became teammates in Israel and in Los Angeles. Wiese talked about how it was a great time playing with and getting to know Jones overseas. Now with Los Angeles, the pair have gotten closer being pregame partners and roommates on the road.
“I am so happy and proud of her for the work she has been putting in and it is paying off in that she can give that to us day in and day out,” Wiese said about Jones reaching her career-high.
The 15-point first-half performance by Jones allowed for the Sparks’ bench to score 26 points to help blow the game wide open going into halftime. At one point in the second quarter, the bench total for the Sparks had outscored the entire Lynx team total 26-25.
From back-to-back threes by Gray to a nifty lay-up by Wiese, those moments were the catalyst for a 15-2 Sparks run in the third quarter as the Sparks were ascending. Los Angeles reached their biggest lead of the game at 30 points behind a floater from Parker with just under six minutes to play in the third.
Minnesota managed to cut into the deficit and finish the third quarter on a 6-0 run to make it a 24-point Sparks lead heading into the fourth.
The Lynx continued to put up a fight in the fourth quarter, opening it on a 10-0 run behind the efforts of Collier and Lexie Brown. Minnesota steadily continued to chip away at the Sparks lead in the fourth, going on a 20-6 run and outscoring Los Angeles 27-13 in the quarter.
Fisher talked about how hard it is for a team to lead 20-40 points in a game and sustain it the whole way while the opponent is not backing down. Fisher also said that he’ll take this win with the team dominating three out of four quarters.
“The other team are professionals and they have pride,” Fisher said, “they keep fighting and it feels weird as the team that’s up by 30 to feel like every possession is the most important one and you start to get a little bit of slippage.”
Gray always has some of her greatest moments against Minnesota dating back to their duels in the finals in 2016 and 2017. Her exciting moments in the finals were a constant and she had another great moment during clutch time against the Lynx in this game.
Gray’s scored a lay-up and drew contact for an and-one with under a minute left in the game. She made the free throw to put the Sparks up 11 with 43 seconds remaining. Gray finished the game with 17 points on 3-5 three-pointers, four rebounds, and two assists.
The Sparks improve to 16-10 on the season and go up 2-0 in their season series with the Lynx.
Los Angeles will continue their three-game homestand on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. PT against the Indiana Fever.