Ogwumike leads Los Angeles, Sparks stifle Taurasi, take game one in semifinals vs. Phoenix
LOS ANGELES – With rapper Biz Markie spinning tunes in the courtside DJ booth, the Los Angeles Sparks won the first battle in the best-of-five semifinal series between the two teams, 79-66, at Staples Center Tuesday night. Nneka Ogwumike led Sparks with 19 points plus nine rebounds. She was among five Los Angeles players that scored in double figures.
“The game went just like I thought it might,” said Sparks head coach Brian Agler. “These teams know each other extremely well, and when that happens, and both teams are scouted well, it sort of looks like the game gets bogged down some. So, I would imagine both games are going to be like this. It’s going to be real competitive.”
The Sparks host the Mercury again on Thursday before the series heads to Phoenix.
The Mercury started off on a promising note, outscoring the Sparks 23-19 in the first quarter. But Los Angeles changed the course of the game in the second quarter. As a result, the teams went into halftime tied up at 42.
The Sparks went on a 6-0 run to start the third quarter and never looked back. Phoenix did not score until the 5:53 mark of the third quarter and only earned six points in the entire period.
Early in the last period, Los Angeles increased the lead to double digits after a three-point shot from Candace Parker. Phoenix’s Monique Curried answered with a trey as the Mercury tried to recover but the visitors could not overcome the Sparks as the game wound down.
The Mercury were stifled by the defense of the Sparks and had key players in foul trouble. In fact, three Phoenix players fouled out including Brittney Griner, Camille Little and Emma Cannon. Double technical fouls were charged to Cannon and the Sparks’ Essence Carson with 28.3 seconds left in the third quarter.
Other Los Angeles players in double figures included Parker with 15 points plus six rebounds. Chelsea Gray contributed 13 points plus six assists. Odyssey Sims scored 12 points and dished out five assists. Alana Beard added 11 points and received the league’s 2017 Defensive Player of the Year award pregame.
Point guard Leilani Mitchell led Phoenix with 19 points, a career-high in playoff points. Griner finished with 18 points and just two rebounds, well below her average of 10.0 rebounds per game. She was limited to four points in the second half before fouling out.
The Mercury’s Diana Taurasi was held to just six points in the game, below her average of 18.5 points per game.
The teams meet again Thursday in a contest at Long Beach State. The Staples Center is unavailable Thursday due to a concert featuring Hall & Oates and Tears For Fears.
- The Sparks connected on 8-19 (42.1%) from the field while the Mercury shot 6-13 (46.2%) from the floor in the first quarter and trailed the Mercury by 4 points, 23-19.
- Los Angeles scored 12 points (6/9) in the paint, while the Mercury only scored 2 points (1/5).
- There were 24 total fouls in first half, setting WNBA record for most in a half in a WNBA playoff game.
- The Sparks shot 16-37 (43.2%) from the floor while the Mercury connected 13-28 (46.4%) from the field in the first half and the game was tied, 42-42.
- Los Angeles outscored Phoenix in the paint with 22 points (11/18) to Phoenix’s 8 points (4/10).
- The Mercury had just one field goal in a 4:21 stretch from the late 2nd quarter to early 3rd quarter.
- Phoenix scored 6 points in the third quarter which ties a WNBA playoff third quarter low by a team.
- The Sparks had 11 steals while the Mercury had 5.