Sparks dominate in third quarter for victory against the Phoenix Mercury

Though this opening weekend is bigger than basketball, the Sparks shined in their win against the Mercury

Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury opened the 2020 WNBA season during the Black Lives Matter themed weekend where players pushed for dialogue about the cause and Breonna Taylor. (Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Photo)

With Black Lives Matter on the forefront and the amplification of Breonna Taylor, the league has done a good job of giving them a platform throughout the opening weekend. Both the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury held a moment of silence for 26 seconds prior to tip-off, being that Breonna Taylor was 26 when her life was taken back in March.

“When we talk about Breonna Taylor, 26? She had so much life to live and we’re killing. That’s the youth right there,” Sparks guard Chelsea Gray said. “I’m 27, that could’ve been me last year.”

The Los Angeles Sparks used a dominant third quarter to give them the upper hand in their 99-76 win over the Phoenix Mercury on Saturday at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Nneka Ogwumike led all scorers with 21 points on a perfect 8-8 from the field and 7 rebounds. Six Sparks players scored in double-digits in the win.

Los Angeles got out to a hot start in the first half going toe to toe with Phoenix, at one point the game was tied at 22 all. Candace Parker came out the gate looking spry and aggressive on the defensive end. Around the 4:24 mark of the first quarter, Parker, who scored 13 points and had 7 rebounds overall, scored 6 points. She was also very committed to her defensive assignment on Mercury’s Brittney Griner.

Sparks Head Coach Derek Fisher told media that part of the team’s success this season revolves around Parker’s versatility on both ends of the floor every night.

Seimone Augustus and Brittney Sykes had good showings in their debuts for the Sparks off the bench. Augustus finished with 14 points on 6-6 shooting from the field and Sykes had 10 points on 3-5 shooting from the field. Fisher started going to the bench throughout the first half, playing all 11 active players.

Once Augustus and Sykes checked in, they were able to let their impacts on the court be felt. Augustus looked in her debut from when she checked in during the first quarter and hit a three-pointer at the 4:41 mark. Sykes shined with a big block on Griner with 1:06 on the clock in the second quarter.

“It was no pressure, no stress, just come out and play ball, pick the spots to be successful,” Augustus said.

At the break, the Sparks were up by just four points after a leveled out the first half of the game. The Sparks shot 50% from the field and took advantage of the Mercury’s 12 turnovers to convert on 14 points.

The third quarter was where Los Angeles shined the most during the 2019 season and against Phoenix, they came out hot in the quarter. The Sparks took over in the third by outscoring the Mercury 30-8 as they shot 56.6% from the field.

Gray and rookie Te’a Cooper finished with 13 points and 10 points, respectively. Los Angeles finished the game with 50% shooting from the field, 18 total turnovers, and 31 rebounds. The team held the Phoenix Mercury to 44.3% shooting. The Sparks improve to 23-12 in the regular season under the Fisher regime.

“This weekend was really big for us, and we anticipate even more moving forward to be able to acknowledge things that are much bigger than basketball,” Ogwumike said.

The Sparks are set to take on the Chicago Sky on Tuesday, July 28th at 8 p.m. ET on Spectrum SportsNet and League Pass.

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