In a back and forth game with nine ties and seven lead changes, the Los Angeles Sparks were able to hold off the Phoenix Mercury in an 80-72 home opening victory. It was the first meeting between the two this season.
Candace Parker made her season debut finishing with 10 points in 19 minutes after missing the first three games of the season with a back injury, a solid performance after just stepping back onto the court. "Candice made some really good plays. She obviously didn't play at her best because we've seen her best," said Sparks head coach Bryan Agler in a post-game press conference.
However, it was the Chelsea Gray show, in a dominating performance leading all scorers with 23 points and nine assists. Nneka Ogwumike finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.
You got the sense that Phoenix was starting to run away with the game mid way through the third quarter. They went on a 13-2 run behind veteran, Sancho Lyttle, who finished the game with 20 points in 15 minutes.
Ultimately, the Phoenix had their chances down the stretch, but committed 10 of their 18 turnovers in the fourth quarter. "We were too quick hitting, we didn't execute, we didn't move the ball as well as she should of," mentioned Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello, adding "We got to get physically and mentally tougher on the defensive end." Ultimately, this was the difference in such a close game.
The Sparks capitalized on two things, converting those ten turnovers into points and taking advantage of Brittney Griner on the bench in foul trouble by going inside to Ogwumike. There was a four-minute segment in the fourth where the game was won and the slightest margin makes the ultimate difference, in an overall well-played game by both. "We played a good game, we just had a little bit of lapses where they got loose balls and scored. We've just got to put 40 minutes together and finish the game like that," added Sancho Lyttle.
After playing their first three contests on the road, this was the first game of a five-game home stretch for the Sparks. A crucial point in the season when it comes to standings and placement for playoffs down the road. "I think we're getting better. We're not where we need to be yet," said Agler. Capitalizing on these next five, returning everyone and headed into mid season with momentum with be LA's focus.
The Sparks will enjoy a week break before hosting the Minnesota Lynx at home on Sunday, June 3rd at 5:00pm ET.
Phoenix will host the undefeated Mystics at home on Wednesday, May 30th at 9:00pm ET. Both contests can be seen on WNBA League Pass.