Los Angeles, CA – Coming back from a two week hiatus and on the road, the Los Angeles Sparks had their first test in their three game home stand hosting the Las Vegas Aces. With so many upgrades to the team, the Aces have been one of the toughest teams to beat all season, and they came into Staples center winning eight of their last nine contests. It looked all fitting however when the Sparks handled a 10 point lead early. A strong defensive stand however was the difference maker leading Los Angeles to a 76-68 win.
“With runs controlling the game our team came through in all aspects,” Candace Parker said. “Our veterans did their part, and coach Fisher drew up a solid plan to get our bench involved and it made a big difference. We didn’t have a strong fourth quarter, but we all pulled through to make sure we would compete.”
With so many injuries and setbacks, including Chiney Ogwumike out with a bad jaw, Los Angeles needed just about everything to come through. With Candace Parker back, she led the charge with 16 points, combined with Chelsea Gray’s 16 of her own and 10 assists, and a spread offense that gave the Sparks a strong edge against Vegas’s height difference.
“It’s important to create that team chemistry and understand how each other plays with anyone on the court,” Nneka said. “We have to know it can be anybody’s night every night. We all understand that with the position we are in we have to take advantage of what we have.”
Nneka also finished with a team high 18 points.
Sparks fans questioned where their 10 point lead went while it looked like things were under control. Candace Parker knew what was going on when Las Vegas didn’t get a foul call for most of the second quarter with the aces heading to the free throw line for 16 attempts. It became the difference to an Aces comeback as throughout the rest of the second quarter both teams traded leads. Kayla McBride’s last second jumper notched the game at 40 at halftime.
Vegas came out strong going up seven until Los Angeles had a few answers. With teams trading three pointers midway through the third quarter, the Sparks managed a 9-0 run that put the team back in the drivers seat with a pair of three pointers from Nneka Ogwumike and Alexis Jones. Las Vegas cooled down aggressively failing to get to the free throw line, which led to Los Angeles carrying a three point lead to the final quarter.
Both teams started off sluggish in the final quarter, but the Sparks managed the tempo forcing the Aces to shoot just 1-for-8 in the first five minutes. By then the Aces eventually ran out of gas and couldn’t make up a run while baskets swung back and forth. Chelsea Gray’s fadeaway jumper with over a minute to go gave Los Angeles an eight point lead and sealed the win.
Los Angeles continues their strong test with Seattle coming to town this Sunday. Phoenix concludes their three game home stand.