Mystics Control Sparks At the Line

Los Angeles (July 7, 2018) – The Los Angeles Sparks could not overcome the Washington Mystics’ consistency at the free throw line Saturday, falling 83-74 for their third straight loss.

The Mystics took control early in the first quarter, as LaToya Sanders and rookie Ariel Atkins both hit two jumpers to give Washington an 8-2 lead at the 7:00 mark. Chelsea Gray then swooped through the lane for a layup, but two quick baskets from Atkins extended the Mystics’ lead to 13-6. With 3:22 left in the frame, Monique Currie found Tianna Hawkins for the transition layup, and Essence Carson countered with a 17-foot pullup jumper to cut the Sparks’ deficit to nine. The Sparks went on a 6-0 run to end the quarter, courtesy of a Maria Vadeeva jumper and free throws from Odyssey Sims and Carson. The Mystics would take a 19-14 lead into the second quarter.

Nneka Ogwumike opened the second with authority, going on a solo 7-2 run highlighted by a strong three-point play in the post. With the score tied at 21, Elena Delle Donne registered five straight points to give the Mystics the 26-23 lead. With 4:51 to play, Sims rifled a one-handed pass to Candace Parker in the post for the basket, cutting the lead to a point. Alana Beard banked home a short jumper at the 3:12 mark to give LA its first lead, and Gray followed with a fade-away jumper to extend the lead to three. Baskets from Parker and Jantel Lavender extended the Sparks’ 8-0 run, helping LA take a 35-30 lead into the half. The Sparks outscored Washington 21-11 in the second quarter. Atkins led all scores at the break with nine, but the Mystics were held to just 11-34 (32.4 percent) from the field.

The teams exchanged baskets on their first possessions of the third quarter, and a pair of free throws from Ogwumike pushed the Sparks’ lead to 39-32 with 7:32 left. Kristi Toliver answered with her first 3-pointer of the game to cut the Mystics’ deficit to four. Natasha Cloud pulled the Mystics to within two with a driving layup, but Gray countered with her own bucket in the paint with 4:46 left in the frame. Gray drained the Sparks’ first three-pointer of the game with 2:31 to play, giving LA the 52-45 lead, but five straight free throws from Toliver made it a two-point game. With the game tied, Toliver hit a runner in the lane to send the Mystics into the fourth ahead 54-52.

After an Ogwumike free throw, the Mystics rattled off four straight points before a Sims 3-pointer brought the Sparks within two. With 5:48 to play, Chelsea Gray glided through the lane for the layup to make the score 62-60, but Currie answered with a tough floater to extend the Mystics’ lead to four. A strong put-back lay-in from Ogwumike was countered by Toliver’s 10th and 11th free throws of the night, and Sanders followed with a jumper to make the score 70-64 with 3:07 to play. Gray drained a three with 1:18 to cut the Sparks’ deficit to five, but the Mystics iced the game away at the line to take the victory 83-74.
Toliver finished with 20 points to lead the Mystics, shooting a perfect 13-13 from the line. Washington shot 32-35 from the charity stripe on the night. Gray and Ogwumike recorded 23 and 22 points, respectively, with Ogwumike totaling 13 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season.