Washington begins road trip with rout of Los Angeles, 81-52, spoils Candace Parker’s season debut
LOS ANGELES – The season debut of Candace Parker didn’t exactly go as envisioned for the Los Angeles Sparks. Instead, it looked a lot like the last time they faced the Washington Mystics, when a 96-64 loss ended the Sparks’ season in the second round of the playoffs.
The stakes were lower on Tuesday night, before 9,537 fans at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, who cheered on the return of star forward Parker, but saw the Sparks lose 81-52.
“For like the last eight months I’ve been watching basketball,” the two-time MVP said before the game. “That’s kind of been my job. … I’m tired of watching. So I think I’ve had an advantage of learning the system and learning the offense, but I’m ready to go out and play.”
Despite the eagerness of Parker, who recovered from a hamstring injury, and her teammates, the Sparks stumbled out of the gate. Parker finished with just three points on 1-for-9 shooting. The Mystics quickly built a 20-3 first quarter lead, behind crisp offensive sets featuring lots of ball movement. Washington assisted on their first seven made baskets, and finished with 20 assists on the night.
“I think we did a good job moving the ball around,” explained Mystics forward Ariel Atkins, who led all players with 22 points. “Pass to the weak side, find the open person, hit shots.”
It was certainly a team effort from the Mystics, who had four players score in double figures, including guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who came off the bench to score 17 points in under 19 minutes.
“I feel like [being collaborative] is our identity as a team,” Atkins said. “I feel like we have a lot of different weapons, and a lot of people that can do different things, and we get everybody involved. It’s a beautiful thing.”
The opposite was true for the Sparks, who had little chemistry as they integrated a new player into the lineup. Los Angeles turned the ball over 27 times, leading to 38 Mystics points. They shot just 28.8 percent from the field, and 15.8 percent on free throws.
“We have to kind of like, reel [Parker] into the chemistry of the team,” explained forward Nneka Ogwumike, who had 12 points and six rebounds. “We would not want anything else but to have her back, and so it’s going to be kind of like an integration into what we’ve kind of established as a team on the court.”
Despite the 29-point loss, which gave the Sparks a losing record at home, coach Derek Fisher was optimistic about the team’s long-term view.
“Coaches that I’ve played for in the past would mention that winning covers a multitude of sins. It’s only until after you win, and you cry, and you feel the emotion that comes with having sacrificed and fought through the adversity – it’s not until then that it makes sense.”
The Mystics (5-3) continue their road trip on Thursday when they take on the Las Vegas Aces. The Sparks (4-4) will visit the Seattle Storm on Friday.
- The Mystics held the Sparks to a season-low of 28.8% from the field.
- Washington earned the team’s 300th regular-season win in franchise history
- Mystics forward Elena Della Donne grabbed 15 rebounds, which is her most since July 31, 2018 when she earned 16.
- Sydney Wiese logged a season-high 12 points for Los Angeles.
- Sparks pulled down 38 rebounds overall, two more than the Mystics.
- Points in the Paint: Mystics 26, Sparks 24
- Second Chance Points: Mystics 10, Sparks 20
- Fastbreak Points: Mystics 16, Sparks 2
- Biggest Lead: Mystics 30, Sparks 0
- Lead Changes: 0
- Times Tied: 0
- Attendance: 9,537