The Los Angeles Sparks were a minute away from snapping a three-game losing streak. Instead, the Indiana Fever handed them a 74-72 loss and complicated their playoffs chances even more.
The Sparks came into the game just half a game out of 8th place. The Fever currently have the worst record in the league, but the last-place team was not going to be an easy opponent.
Neither team started the game with great rhythm. The offensive struggles the Sparks have been experiencing this season seemed to continue as they only scored 13 points in the first quarter. Indiana wasn’t particularly brilliant on offense either, so the Fever only managed a 35-30 lead at halftime.
The Sparks scored 26 points in the third period, and they kept some of that momentum going to lead by eight points with under four minutes left in the fourth. Los Angeles is a defense focused team, but the Fever tied the game with 1:12 left on the clock.
Indiana stole the ball with 16 seconds left and Teaira McCowan was sent to the free throw line shortly after. She made both, putting the Fever up 74-72.
After a Los Angeles timeout, Nia Coffey missed a three-point shot that was rebounded by Brittney Sykes. Sykes was fouled but missed both free throws. She attempted a jumpshot after the second miss but that one also did not go in.
Los Angeles was missing Kristi Toliver (hand) and Chiney Ogwumike (knee) with injury. The Sparks bench stepped up and outscored the Fever’s bench 29-14, but that wasn’t the stat that made the most impact at the end of the night.
Nneka Ogwumike, who led the Sparks offense with 17 points, pointed out that rebounds played a huge role. Indiana outrebounded Los Angeles 39-20.
“I think that we weren’t sharp on defense,” Ogwumike said when asked about the last few minutes of the game. “And quite frankly the rebounding disparity was just too much. I know I gotta be better on that.”
Indiana also got to the free throw more times. They had 24 free throw attempts and made 20 of those. Meanwhile, the Sparks made 10 out of only 15 attempts. This difference in opportunities at the charity line, coach Derek Fisher said, came down to his team needing to attack the paint more while also being more physical in the offense.
The Sparks did lead in assists 21-11, which was something Fisher was content with.
“Assist ratio has been a trend that has been going in the right direction,” the coach said. “We’re making an attempt to share the basketball and play the right way.”
The Sparks have one more game to wrap up their six-game road trip. They will take on the Minnesota Lynx on Thursday Sept. 2 at 5pm PT.