The Los Angeles Sparks defeated the Phoenix Mercury 78-75 on Sunday evening to improve to 17-11. This keeps them a game and a half ahead of the Mercury for the second seed in the Western Conference.
The Sparks have won two straight a Staples Center after previously dropping five straight at home. They were led once again by their big three Chelsea Gray, Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike. The three All-Stars combined for 52 of the teams 78 points. Chelsea led all scorers with 24 points (10-17 FG) as she closed the game for the Sparks hitting one big shot after another. She was asked after the game in a post-game interview if she looks at herself as a closer for the team and she responded “it depends on how were playing, and how things are flowing.”
This wasn’t just a huge win for the Sparks but it was also a milestone achievement for Candace Parker. In the second quarter she made a free throw that put her at the 5,000 career point’s mark. She is the 20th player in WNBA history to hit the 20k mark. She said in a post-game interview about the personal achievement “I had no idea what the fans were cheering for until I looked up at the score board.” She finished with a double-double 14 points and 14 rebounds. Nneka Ogwumike in her second game back (illness) also finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds.
The Mercury starting front court combined to score 50 of the team's 75 points. They were led by Britney Griner who scored 22 points on 10-19 from the field. DeWanna Bonner also contributed 20 points and had a team high 9 rebounds.
The Sparks did a good job containing All-Star and future Hall of Famer Diana Taurasi holding her to 11 points on just 3-8 shooting. They kept her without a field goal until the third quarter and were also able to frustrate her and make her uncomfortable for most of the game causing her to pick her sixth personal foul midway through the fourth quarter. A lot of the credit went to defensive specialist Alana Beard who has taken on the challenge of defending the opposing team's best perimeter player all season long.