Sparks impose defensive will in first win of the season against Sky

Chicago, IL – The Los Angeles Sparks (2-1) imposed their will defensively over the Chicago Sky (2-3) throughout the game as they forced 28 turnovers in their, 76-61, road victory.

Maintaining the momentum was an issue for Los Angeles in their first two games, however this proved not to be an issue at all for the Sparks in Friday’s matchup. 

Head Coach Derek Fisher was asked during media availability how he thought his team could maintain the momentum in this contest and he said, “We have a really young second group of players. So we have to try from a rotation standpoint, to make sure that we are keeping some veterans and some anchors out there next to a couple of younger players to make sure that we do not lose our way too much.” 

This proved to be effective indeed as the Sparks got into a rhythm early, and their defense quickly translated to offense. A transition bucket from Te’a Cooper lifted the Sparks over the Sky, 20-19, at the end of the first quarter, and LA simply never looked back.

In the second quarter, the Sky tried to make a comeback as Kahleah Copper scored 5 straight points to cut the lead to 2 points, 33-31, with about a minute left in the period. But the Sparks still refused to relinquish their lead and went up, 38-33, as they continued to carry their momentum going into the second half.

Los Angeles is a fairly new team who is still learning how to play with one another, but they were clicking on all cylinders on Friday night. They spaced the floor, had good ball movement, knocked down key jumpers, converted on their forced turnovers, and scored 32 bench points. 

Nneka Ogwumike had 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 steals; Erica Wheeler scored 13 points, 6 assists, and 3 steals; Brittney Sykes finished the game with 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 steals, and Amanda Zahui B debuted with 8 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals.

But defense was the name of the game in this one.

Active hands from Sykes and Wheeler played a key role in rattling the Sky on the offensive end. “I want to win,” said Sykes in the post game press conference. 

LA’s defensive intensity was simply unmatched. Chicago nearly gave up 30 points off of turnovers to LA, as the Sparks picked up 29 points off of the 28 turnovers. 

The third quarter was crucial. This is where LA really began to pull away and led, 61-43, going into the fourth quarter. They did not let up the rest of the game. 

Now, Los Angeles did not face a full Chicago roster as notable players missing from the Sky included Candace Parker (left ankle) Allie Quigley (hamstring) and Stefanie Dolson (Olympic qualifiers), so they were able to take advantage of their shorthanded opponent.

“The energy was great, and we just played together. We’re just going to build on the shot selection and really staying together on defense. So we’re just going to get better from this game and learn from it. It’s going to be a beautiful journey together,” said Amanda Zahui B in her debut.

The Sparks face off against the Sky again on Sunday, March 30, at 3 p.m.