Los Angeles opens their final three-game home-stretch of the season with a win over the Atlanta Dream.
Without their leading scorer and this year’s MVP candidate in Nneka Ogwumike, the Sparks were able to overcome a slow start to rout the Dream on Tuesday evening.
Ogwumike was a game-time decision against the Dream then was ruled out due to load management, but the Sparks did not fret as they routed the Atlanta Dream 70-60 with four players finishing in double figures.
Chiney Ogwumike started in place of her older sister and came out with aggression and energy that the Sparks needed against the Dream. Given the situation at hand, Ogwumike prepared herself and stepped up to do what she needed to do to help.
“I’ve just learned that I need to be hyper-aggressive regardless,” said Ogwumike who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
This wasn’t a scripted performance that Los Angeles put on display against the Atlanta Dream. Los Angeles has been great at home this season with a 13-2 record and has been able to sustain some big leads against opponents at Staples Center.
However, against Atlanta, Los Angeles had to be present within the game and put up a fight to finish the game on top.
“I like the fact that there’s a level of grit and mental toughness that you have to have in order to win,” Sparks head coach Derek Fisher said.
Sparks overcoming first-quarter woes and gritting it out to the end
With their sluggish start in the first quarter, the Sparks were not able to get it going offensively with a plethora of missed shots and a hot start for Atlanta who shot 10-19 from the field in the opening quarter. Though there were some great moments in the quarter from Candace Parker, who finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds, Atlanta was able to close the first with an eight-point advantage.
Ogwumike’s energy plays along with Chelsea Gray’s moments, helped the Sparks to get out to a 9-0 run and make it a tied game in the second quarter. As the Sparks sustained their defense throughout, their offense picked up in the second quarter, while being able to outscore the Dream 18-11.
Despite the barrage of three-pointers by Atlanta’s Alex Bentley that helped them regain their lead, the Sparks were able to stay the course heading into the half.
Los Angeles continued to shine in the third quarter, outscoring Atlanta 17-10. Early in the quarter, they were able to hold Atlanta to just three points in the opening minutes of the second half. There were also able to get out to an 11-0 run in the quarter as the rust was coming off.
“In the third quarter, they tried to clear their minds a little bit each defensive possession one at a time,” Fisher said, “and that was really where the separation came from.
Maria Vadeeva came off the bench with a different energy in the third and scored five of her 10 points to help the Sparks create some room with their seven-point lead with a few minutes left on the clock.
The Sparks extended their lead 13 points with just under two minutes to play over the Dream but the Dream was able to close the deficit to six points heading into the fourth.
Both teams exchanged baskets in the fourth quarter, but the Dream was not able to stop the Sparks in the end.
Gray played all 40 minutes of gameplay and finished with 15 points, two rebounds, and four assists. Even on nights like this in which she shot 7-15 from the field, just having her on the floor gives the Sparks a chance to win.
Los Angeles (20-12) notched their 12th straight victory at home with this win and sit in third place within league standings. With their ticket punched to the playoffs, they are now in pursuit of a first-round bye as they will try to maintain that spot in the standings.
The Sparks will host the Seattle Storm on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. PT.