Sparks continue playoff push with 76-64 win over Chicago
The Los Angeles Sparks (8-16) continued their march to a playoff berth with a 76-64 win over the Chicago Sky (15-11) Sunday evening. The victory marked the first time the Sparks beat an Eastern Conference team at Staples Center this season.
It was a close game at the half, with the Sparks going into the break holding a slim 38-35 advantage. While the first half had seven lead changes, Los Angeles never trailed throughout the entire second half, reaching its largest lead of the game with 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Overall, the Sparks held the Sky to 32.4 percent shooting, Chicago’s second-worst shooting performance of the summer.
Candace Parker led her team with 21 points, eight rebounds and 10 rebounds. Kristi Toliver added 16 points, Nneka Ogwumike scored 15 points and Jantel Lavender contributed 12 points plus eight rebounds.
Elena Delle Donne paced Chicago with 23 points and eight rebounds. Cappie Pondexter was the only other Sky player in double figures with 11 points.
The Sparks host the Indiana Fever on Tuesday. Chicago heads home to host the Washington Mystics on Friday.
- The starting five accounted for 66-of-the-76 Sparks points in the win
- Los Angeles scored 42 points in the paint compared to the Sky’s 26 – its 12th time this season the Sparks outscored its opponents in the key this season.
- Forward Candace Parker earned her fifth double-double of the season.
- Guard Alana Beard played her 300th career game.
- Chicago (15-11) fell to 6-13 in its all-time series record against Los Angeles (8- 16) in tonight’s loss, 76-64.
- The Sky scored 64 points, its second lowest scoring game of the season, and scored a season-low 12 points in the third quarter.
- Sparks forward Candace Parker ‘s 10 assists was the most by a Chicago opponent this season.
Sparks head coach Brian Agler
On the team’s aggressive offense
“I don’t know if we are a [chippy] team like that but I liked how we responded when it started happening. We didn’t back down and it brought us together a little bit more. Through that, we extended our league. I thought our effort defensively was really good tonight. Offensively early we moved the ball and had a variety of people making big plays. Chicago’s a team that’s very difficult to defend and I thought that was one of our better defensive efforts this year.”
On the importance of energy
“[Energy] is extremely important this time of year. This is why you see things like us get really flat against Seattle [or] New York get beat by Tulsa at home. That’s why you see a variety of things happen this time of year because teams get on the road, they get tired, they might even be on the road and their first game back home is like a road trip because they just got off the road and they turn around and play right away. We had a chance to settle in here in L.A. for four or five days. We got better both mentally and physically and I think it showed tonight”
Sparks forward Candace Parker
On the team’s morale and motivation
“I think we’re going to be as talented as we want to be and that’s the key. We have to continue to raise our level and to be hungry. There are going to be games when shots don’t fall, what do you do then? What do you do when you go four minutes without scoring? What happens then? That’s where [the test] is going to truly be. Games like this where things are flowing, offense is running and we’re getting stops on defense those cover up all those other things. What happens when you meet some adversity? That’s the true test of this team and when that happens I’ll let you know if we’re ready or not”
On comparison to last game
“Coach always talks about the hungriest teams win. So far this season when we’ve been hungry we’ve won. There hasn’t been a game this season when we’ve played with that type of hunger and not been successful and that just proves to his point.”
Sparks guard Kristi Toliver
On the team’s defense
“I like to think it’s our defense. That’s always the point of emphasis. We did a really good job against them in Chicago, holding them to a low field-goal percentage. We know that when they score more than 70 points, they win games. So that was definitely a point of emphasis for us, and they really only had 60 with a couple of minutes left in the fourth quarter. Defensively we did our job and we did a good job with [Elena] Delle Donne and their main shooters. We just played to the scouting report and usually when we do that we have success.”
On bouncing back
“We had a couple days since the last game. I think we did a lot of reflecting just talking to one another before the game, getting on the same page and figure out what we want out of this season. That was a reflection of this game. I think we are focused and we all understand now that it’s do-or-die time. It’s time to put our foot on the pedal and we know when we play like this, we’re a really tough team to beat and we can do really special things. It’s just a matter of staying consistent, which means we need to do this again on Tuesday against Indiana and not continue to have the roller coaster that we’ve had.”
Sky head coach Pokey Chatman
On tonight’s loss
“First of all, I would like to credit the opponent. But on our part, the first thing I told the team was that we did not shoot the ball particularly well. We felt good about some of the looks Elena [Delle Donne] and Cappie [Pondexter] got throughout the game, but we can’t win shooting 32% in this league. We outrebounded them and we took care of this basketball, but teams do have off nights and that is what we saw today”
On how to improve
“I could name 10 things we need to improve. However, I feel extremely confident in this group. We need to focus on the defensive end of the floor and make our opponents feel uncomfortable out on the court.”
Sky forward Elena Delle Donne
On the third quarter
“We are all just battling really hard right now. There’s only eight games left in the season, everybody knows what is at stake with the playoffs looming. When the stakes are high, the physicality is high as well.“
On bouncing back from the loss
“Luckily, we get to go home and practice. We have not practiced in a long time with our schedule, so these upcoming days are huge for us. We have to get back out on the practice court and figure some things out so we are able to finish the season strong.”
Sky guard Cappie Pondexter
On the team performance
“I thought we came out strong and aggressive, but Los Angeles is a tough matchup because they are huge. It was definitely a chess match that they beat us at today because they put Nneka [Ogwumike] at the three position and made smaller guards like myself and Allie [Quigley] have to guard them”
On preparing for the game against Los Angeles
“We just came off of a great win in Seattle and we felt like we owed Los Angeles for coming into Chicago and beating us on our own home court. We really wanted to win and make a strong statement here before we headed home. Unfortunately, that did not happen”
By the Numbers
Points in the Paint: Sky 26, Sparks 42
Second Chance Points: Sky 7, Sparks 9
Fastbreak Points: Sky 17, Sparks 6
Biggest Lead: Sky 6, Sparks 21
Lead Changes: 7
Times Tied: 8