Los Angeles, Ca – The Los Angeles Sparks climbed into the driver’s seat and cruised to a 97-87 win against the Dallas Wings at STAPLES Center on Tuesday and avenged last week’s heartbreaking loss in Dallas.
The Sparks’ rim penetration and high-pressure defense was key to propelling them to a resounding 23-8 lead at the end of the first quarter on the back of two lengthy runs.
“I liked how our focus was in the beginning of the game,” Los Angeles Sparks head coach Brian Agler said. “We defended well in the first quarter. It’s a tough team to play against.”
Chelsea Gray led the Sparks with a team-high 24 points as Los Angeles had five players in double-digit scoring. Skylar Diggins-Smith led both teams with a game-high 28 points, 12 of which came in the final quarter after a slow, first-half start. Wings teammate Glory Johnson finished with a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
L.A. capped a 9-2 run in the opening three minutes of the game and went on another 14-4 stroll midway into the quarter. The Wings couldn’t find a bucket for three minutes, hitting a Sparks’ opponent season-low eight points at the end of the opening frame.
It looked like the Sparks were going to repeat its first quarter run when Ogwumike scored the first five points of the second frame, but the Wings found their scoring groove and struck gold with the three-ball for the second 10 minutes. Dallas missed all five of its first distance shots in the first quarter, but exploded hitting five-of-seven from three to close a once 17-point gap to five.
“It’s just the flow,” Dallas Wings head coach Fred Williams said about the free-flowing three-pointers. “Our main thing was to still try to get to the rim on drives and I thought L.A. shut us down in the first quarter, for sure.”
It didn’t matter to L.A., which closed out the first half with an 8-0 run to lead 48-35 going into the locker room.
“They were trying to make that adjustment and our defense did make that adjustment in the third quarter,” Sparks forward Candace Parker said. “Sometimes it takes a team a quarter to figure out our defense and then it takes a quarter for our defense to make an adjustment of what the other team is doing, and I think we did that in the third quarter. “
Just when it looked all but over with the lead at a game-high 22 points, Diggins-Smith mustered up 12 points – eight of which were in the final minute – to keep the Wings within distance and cut the lead to eight points.
“There’s no lead in this league that’s insurmountable,” Agler said. “Everybody can come back on you. If you go up 20 and you relax, you’re going to look up and it’s down to 10. We have to try to find a way to keep our focus, but for the most part it was pretty good tonight.”