Candace Parker helps Los Angeles Sparks top Las Vegas Aces 86-74 to halt losing streak
Three Sparks players score 18 points each in win over Las Vegas
I asked Kalani Brown about the mix-up with Liz Cambage: “She told me she was gonna pull my hair out – I just didn’t think she would really do it” pic.twitter.com/4OmS0Yfj6a
— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) June 28, 2019
LOS ANGELES – The Las Vegas Aces outscored the Los Angeles Sparks 18-17 in the opening quarter of Thursday’s marquee game. After that, it was all Los Angeles.
Even without forward Nneka Ogwumike, who rested for the game, Los Angeles snapped a four-game skid with an 86-74 victory that featured a 19-point fourth quarter lead.
For one game at least, the Sparks found the rhythm and chemistry that eluded them for much of season so far. The ball darted between the key and the perimeter, with the team accruing 34 points in the paint and 24 points from beyond the three-point line.
Star forward Candace Parker, playing in just her fourth game of the year due to a preseason hamstring injury, looked like her All-Star self for the first time this season. With 18 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and four steals, the two-time MVP was focused and aggressive all night long. As were her teammates.
“I think you excuse yourself the first two games [of a losing streak] – ‘Ahh, well, we’re learning each other’ – and then [Sunday’s loss to the Phoenix Mercury] happened and it was like, ‘What’s the excuse?’” Parker said after the game. “So, I think to a point we kind of excused ourselves, and then the exception became the rule, and we lost three straight, four straight.”
The Sparks made sure it wouldn’t be five straight. Despite a strong showing from Aces center Liz Cambage, who had 18 points and five rebounds on 9-for-12 shooting, Los Angeles controlled the tempo of the game, starting with an 11-3 run to open the second quarter.
Chelsea Gray dazzled the 10,295 fans in the Staples Center with an array of no-look passes en route to 18 points and six assists. Sharpshooter Riquna Williams was thrust into the starting lineup to provide spacing, and answered by knocking down three shots from long distance, while scoring 18 and grabbing six rebounds. Two-time Defensive Player of the Year Alana Beard managed six steals in under 20 minutes of play.
And rookie center Kalani Brown had her strongest showing of the year with 12 points, four rebounds, and a flurry of tough plays that showed her fearlessness against the superstar frontcourt of Cambage and A’ja Wilson.
With 3:51 remaining in the third quarter, Brown got into it with Cambage, last year’s MVP runner-up. Cambage was assessed a flagrant foul for pulling Brown’s hair, and the rookie earned a technical foul for retaliating with a shove.
“My hair got tangled up in her arm, and she deliberately pulled my hair,” a smiling Brown said. “She told me she was gonna pull my hair out, but I just didn’t think she was really gonna do it. So, when she really did it, it was just a reflex to just push.”
While that incident helped the Sparks gain momentum, the Aces struggled to find any all night. The team shot just 5-for-16 from three-point range, and everyone other than Cambage combined to shoot a mere 21-for-61. Shooting guard Kelsey Plum missed all eight of her shot attempts, and Wilson needed 12 shots for her 13 points.
It was a much different story than on opening night, when Las Vegas beat Los Angeles 83-70. But the two teams play each other four times this year, more than they play any other team, so there’s plenty of time for Thursday’s chippy match to turn into something even more exciting.
The Sparks (5-6) next play on Sunday, when they host the Chicago Sky. The Aces (6-5) return home to take on the Indiana Fever on Saturday.
- Points in the Paint: Aces 46, Sparks 34
- Second Chance Points: Aces 10, Sparks 7
- Fastbreak Points: Aces 10, Sparks 13
- Biggest Lead: Aces 5, Sparks 19
- Lead Changes: 3
- Times Tied: 0
- Attendance: 10,295