Sparks defeat Minnesota Lynx in regular-season finale

Los Angeles closes their regular season with a 14-game home winning streak.


Lynx Sparks Basketball
Chelsea Gray, Los Angeles Sparks helped to dictate the location for Minnesota Lynx first-round game on Sunday afternoon. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Los Angeles defeated their old foe in the Minnesota Lynx 77-68 as they had a hand in controlling Minnesota’s postseason fate.

While Los Angeles has been locked into the third spot and have the first-round bye, the location of where Minnesota would play was determined by this game’s outcome. Minnesota will head to Seattle to face the Storm on Wednesday while the Los Angeles will wait to see who of the lower seeds they will face in the second round.

The Lynx got out to an early 11-4 lead, with Sylvia Fowles attacking early, while the Sparks were not able to knock down shots. After a customary slow start to open the game, the Sparks were able to up their momentum going on a 15-4 run that was led by Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray.

“When we come out flat and allow the other team to hit first, it affects us,” said Riquna Williams about the low energy starts that the Sparks have had this season.

The big three for the Sparks took over in the opening quarter, at one point Parker and Nneka Ogwumike scored most of their points. The Sparks were able to dwindle the Lynx’ seven-point lead down to one prior to Gray’s pull-up in transition to give the Sparks an edge with 25.4 seconds on the clock. Gray then followed up with a buzzer-beating jumper to give the Sparks a three-point cushion.

Sydney Wiese was the first player off the bench to score in the game. Wiese maintained the Sparks production through the first five minutes of the second quarter. With Wiese leading the way, the Sparks traded buckets with the Lynx. Wiese scored six points in 10 minutes of play in the second quarter.

Wiese has found comfort in her different roles this season being a starter or coming off the bench. In either one of those roles, Wiese is able to fit in with both groups and gives the Sparks an added scoring boost. She has handled these roles gracefully for the Sparks this season.

“It keeps you on your toes or you got to handle it [and] be professional,” Wiese said about juggling those roles this season.

The Sparks managed to pull away from the Lynx on a floater by Parker and held a four-point lead, their largest of the quarter, with 1:12 remaining on the clock. The Lynx would still not go away and closed the gap to two points on Odyssey Sims’ free throws with 28.8 seconds on the clock.

Williams opened the third quarter for the Sparks with a hot hand from the three going on a personal 6-0 run. It was “Bay Watch” in the third with Williams scoring 10 of the Sparks’ 22 points, going 3-6 from three-point range. Williams even converted on a four-point play to give the Sparks a 10-point lead with 5:46 on the clock.

The Sparks have always shined in the third quarter this season and this afternoon was no different. The Sparks shot 56.2 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from the three in the quarter.

Chiney Ogwumike extended the Sparks lead to open the fourth quarter, contributing six points in the first five minutes. Ogwumike’s free throw at the 7:40 mark put the Sparks up by 13, their largest lead of the game. Ogwumike was active throughout the quarter, participating in three jump balls in the fourth.

Gray was the lone starter who played in the fourth but was subbed out when Ogwumike did her free throw. The Sparks bench kept the Lynx at a distance with a small cushioned lead.

“All of those players have been very valuable to us throughout different points in the season,” said head coach Fisher about utilizing his bench while managing the starters’ minutes against the Lynx.

As the Sparks continued to extend, the Lynx was trying to chip at the lead. The Lynx got their deficit down to single digits for good on a Napheesa Collier lay-up to make it a nine-point game with 3:36 on the clock.

The Sparks bench was able to step up in the fourth to close out the game. Ogwumike and Marina Mabrey led the way in the quarter with nine and eight points respectively. Mabrey scored back to back threes to put the game away for the Sparks.

“They were great tonight and we’re going to feed off of that as we head into the postseason,” said Gray about the bench’s effort in the game.

Four players for the Sparks finished in double figures. Williams led the way with 15 points on 4-9 threes. Gray had 14 points, eight assists, and six rebounds. Nneka Ogwumike had 12 points, two rebounds, and two assists. Parker finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.

The Sparks finished the season was a league-best 15-2 home record this season.

Los Angeles (22-12) will know who their opponent will be after the first-round games on  Wednesday and will prepare accordingly to play on Sunday, September 15th at noon PT.

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