Los Angeles, Ca – The Los Angeles Sparks held a one-point lead with 12 seconds left in the game when point guard Chelsea Gray knocked down a pair of free throws to secure a 78-75 win over Phoenix Sunday at the Staples Center.
‘”You just have to play to your instincts,” Gray said. “And play within the realm of what we want to get done offensively and defensively. That’s how we play best.”
Gray scored a season-high 24 points and Candace Parker added 14 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. This was Parker tenth double-double of the season.
Parker made a free throw in the second quarter to become the 20th player in WNBA history to score 5,000 career points.
The two-time WNBA MVP said she didn’t know she was close and was confused at first when the fans began to cheer loudly but then realized they were cheering because of the milestone.
“I appreciate all the fans who have stuck with me,” Parker said. “I really appreciate my teammates, my coaches and my doctors that have gotten me to this point. Nothing is promised and I’m really going to be happy in this moment.”
Riquna Williams hit a 19-foot jumper as time expired in the first quarter to give the Sparks a 20-16 lead. The Sparks went on a 17-2 run with four minutes left in the second quarter.
The Mercury hung around and made a couple runs in the second half, including a 10-2 run that pulled them within one point in the fourth quarter. The Sparks pulled away with a three-pointer by Gray and a couple free throws by Williams.
Diana Taurasi pulled the Mercury back within one point with a three-pointer midway through the fourth quarter. Taurasi fouled out with just under three minutes left in the game.
Taurasi was held scoreless in the first half and finished with 11 points. Brittney Griner led the Mercury with 22 points. DeWanna Bonner added 20 points and nine rebounds.
“Diana is one of the greatest players ever to play,” Sparks head coach Brian Agler said. “I don’t know if you could ever shut her down but you just try to make it as difficult as possible.”
With six games remaining and five of those six on the road, every game will be important in terms of implications it has for the playoffs.
“There’s no time to relax,” Angler said. “You can’t come out and not ready to play this time of year. There’s going to be a lot of playoff type atmosphere games from here on out.”