Los Angeles blew out the Indiana Fever and punched their ticket to the playoffs in a dominant win.
The Sparks (17-10) rolled past the Indiana Fever in a 98-65 final on Thursday night with a balanced effort from all 12 players to solidify their spot in the playoffs.
“We have to put ourselves in the best position possible so every game matters, this game mattered,” Chiney Ogwumike said about the Sparks’ mindset in sustaining a position in the playoffs.
Los Angeles became the fourth team in the league to garner a playoff birth. This will be the team’s 19th appearance in the postseason in 23 seasons.
Despite a rough first quarter having gone 6-21 from the field and trailing at one point by eight points, the Sparks pulled through the following three quarters on high alert. From the second to the fourth quarter the Sparks were the aggressor finishing the game on an 84-47 run in their win on Breast Cancer Awareness Night.
Los Angeles regrouped after a lackluster opening quarter and outscored Indiana the rest of the way in the following quarters. With their defense leading the way, the offense clicked due to trust and the hustle plays that were made by the Sparks.
While the Sparks shot 50 percent from the field, they held the Fever to just 38 percent shooting and heavily capitalized off the Fever’s 21 turnovers in scoring 29 points.
The Sparks established dominance as they started to build momentum late in the second quarter behind back to back three-pointers by Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Riquna Williams. The lead for the Sparks going into halftime was 12 following that three-point flurry.
Out of the half, the Sparks continued to extend their lead possession by possession. The game started to blow wide open once they hit 24 points off a three-pointer by Chelsea Gray with 5:05 on the clock in the third quarter.
The Sparks held their largest lead of the game with 38 points late in the fourth quarter off a running lay-up by Marina Mabrey to make it a 92-54 score with about three minutes remaining.
Indiana tried to climb back but just could not make a dent into the deficit.
Los Angeles welcomed the production and energy of Williams as she returned to play from suspension.
In her return, Williams brought her toughness and competitiveness that always gives the Sparks an edge. Despite not having the greatest game stats-wise, she made some quality shots that helped get the team’s energy going.
“You stay ready for your teammates, not necessarily for yourself,” Williams said about being back and contributing with her teammates.
Williams finished the game with 10 points in 4 of 12 shooting, five rebounds, three assists, and one block in 28 minutes of play.
Sparks’ roster at full strength
“It’s a great thing for the first time to be able to look down the bench and know that everybody is available,” Sparks head coach Derek Fisher said.
It was going to be a task for Fisher to manage the minutes of players, but regardless of the situations that might’ve arisen, when the time came for a player’s name to be called, they were ready to go into the game.
Kalani Brown had not seen the floor since Aug. 4 but she took advantage of her 11 minutes, scoring 10 points on 3-4 field goals and blocking Kennedy Burke’s drive to the rim.
“I just wanted to play my game and not letting what happened in the last couple of games deter me from what I was trying to do,” Brown said about being on the floor when Fisher called her to replace Maria Vadeeva, who collided with Chiney Ogwumike was being tended to for a while.
In cases like Vadeeva’s in the game, it is a gift for the Sparks to have the roster that they have after all that they have gone through this season and they are now prepared for moments like that.
Nneka Ogwumike led the way with 17 points, seven rebounds, five steals, and three assists. Chiney Ogwumike was efficient for the Sparks off the bench with 15 points in 16 minutes of play. Ruffin-Pratt had 11 points and three rebounds. Gray and Vadeeva finished with 10 points apiece.
Los Angeles will look to extend their home winning streak to 11 games in the final game of this three-game homestand on Sunday against the second-place Connecticut Sun at 2 p.m. PT.