Sparks Avenge Defeat and Take Down Wings

Los Angeles (June 26, 2018) – On a night when the Los Angeles Sparks were without the services of Nneka Ogwumike, the Sparks took the second matchup of the year with the Dallas Wings 87-83, fueled by huge nights from Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray.

The Wings set the tone to start the game, jumping out to a 10-2 lead behind 3-pointers from rookie Azura Stevens and Skylar Diggins-Smith. The Sparks settled down after an early timeout, scoring three straight baskets to pull within two points. Diggins-Smith answered with her second long ball of the game and a subsequent technical free throw, stretching the Wings’ lead to 15-10. After a Kayla Thornton put-back turnaround, Los Angeles surged to a 7-0 run to tie the game with 1:30 left in the frame. The Wings would take a 21-18 lead into the second quarter. Parker led all scorers with nine in the first quarter, while Thornton, Diggins-Smith, and Stevens combined for 18 of the Wings’ 21 points.

After the teams exchanged baskets to start the second quarter, Riquna Williams continued her sensational shooting with a three on her first attempt to give the Sparks the lead 25-24. With 6:15 left in the quarter, Glory Johnson nailed a three of her own to put the Wings back in front 30-27, but Williams answered from distance to tie the game again at the 5:39 mark. After a timeout from Wings Coach Fred Williams, the Wings went on an 8-0 run fueled by buckets from Liz Cambage and Stevens. After a Parker lay-up, Williams drained her third 3-pointer of the quarter to pull the score to 38- 35. After a pair of Cambage free throws extended the Wings’ lead to 46-40, Gray hit a jumper with 0.8 seconds left to end the half 46-42. The Wings finished the half shooting 41.9 percent (18-43), while the Sparks shot a 48.5 percent (16- 33) clip.

A minute of scoreless action in the third was erased when Alana Beard nabbed a steal in the backcourt and found Parker running the floor for the lay-in with 8:50 remaining. The next possession saw Parker swipe the ball from Cambage and finish at the other end to tie the game at 46. At the 6:49 mark, a reach-in foul called on Alana Beard led to Coach Brian Agler’s second technical foul, and subsequent ejection. With the game tied at 54, Williams nailed her fourth 3-pointer to put the Sparks up three. With the Sparks up 60-58, the Wings went on a 10-0 run courtesy of five points each from Gray and Thornton, giving Dallas a 68-60 lead with 1:12 to go in the third. Free throws from Sims and Gray pulled the Sparks to within four going into the fourth quarter (68-64).

The Sparks were firing on all cylinders to start the fourth, forcing three turnovers and scoring the first seven points of the frame to take a 71-68 lead with 8:11 to go. Free throws from Cambage tied the game at the 5:23 mark, but consecutive baskets from Gray and Parker gave the Sparks the four-point advantage. With 3:16 left in the game, Parker unleashed a lethal pass-fake on Azura Stevens, driving right past her for the three-point play. After Thornton answered with a long ball, Beard and Vadeeva connected on jumpers to give the sparks the 82-76 lead. The game was far from over, as the Wings went on a quick 5-0 run to cut the deficit to one with 39 seconds remaining. Gray then connected on a clutch 16-foot jumper to put the Sparks up three with 20.1 seconds left. The Sparks iced the game away at the free- throw line, taking the victory 87-83.

Parker had a monster night, leading all scores with a season-high 29 points, seven assists, and five boards. Gray was also excellent, finishing with 23 points and three assists. Cambage led the way for the Wings, posting 25 points and 14 rebounds. The Sparks shot 52.4 percent on the night, while the Wings were held to a 39.2% clip.


  • –  Candace Parker finished with a season-high 29 points, adding seven assists and five rebounds
  • –  Chelsea Gray tied a season-high with 23 points
  • –  Maria Vadeeva led the Sparks in rebounds (six) and blocks (three) in just 19 minutes
  • –  Riquna Williams drained four 3-pointers, giving her 11 in the last two games
  • –  Sparks were held to just two second-chance points
  • –  Alana Beard and Essence Carson nabbed four steals each
  • –  Coach Brian Agler was ejected after receiving his second technical foul with 6:39 left in the third quarter
  • –  The Sparks shot 33-63 (52.4%) from the floor
  • –  Nneka Ogwumike missed the game with a minor back injury and is day to dayWings NOTES:
  • –  Liz Cambage recorded her fifth double-double of the year with 25 points and 14 rebounds
  • –  The Wings had four players in double figures (Cambage, Kayla Thornton, Skylar Diggins-Smith, and AzuraStevens)
  • –  Dallas scored 24 second-chance points to the Sparks’ two points
  • –  The Wings shot 85% from the free-throw line on 17-20 shooting
  • –  Dallas was held to just 39.2% from the floor (29-74)
  • –  Skylar Diggins-Smith was held to 12 points on just 4-18 from the floorQuotes:Sparks Forward Candace ParkerOn And-1 to put the Sparks up 78-73 with three minutes left in the game

    “I think with us it’s just about trying to get them early in transition. We have playmakers on our team and so, just with whoever has the ball just dragging them and getting them in space, and that’s what we did. We did a good job of breaking down the defense, finding shooters, and getting in the lane and finishing.”

    On game plan without Nneka Ogwumike in the lineup

    “Nneka is irreplaceable. We just try to do the best we can by committee. For us against them its just rebounding and blocking them out. We know they had a size advantage against us, so I think that was the key without Nneka, someone has to step up and get those rebounds.”

    On defending Liz Cambage

    “Liz is just about making it as difficult as we can. It’s by committee. My weight of 175 lbs isn’t really going to do a lot against her 1-on-1. It’s more team defense, and Alana made some good plays. For us it’s about making her catch the ball as far away from the basket as possible. On the offensive end, we have to move her, and I think we did that.”

    On Chelsea Grey’s clutch shot to put the Sparks up 84-81 with 20 seconds left on the clock

    “Chelsea’s obviously a great closer for us, for us we had the ball in her hand, and trust her to make the best decision, and she came off and hit that little medium range jump shot that’s hard to contest. She’s done that for us a number of times.”

    Sparks Center Jantel Lavender

    On her starting in the lineup in place of Nneka

    ‘“Just being aggressive, obviously I still didn’t play many minutes, but just to start the game with the up-tempo. Obviously, they got off to a quick start against us, but we just needed to be physical. They got too many easy baskets early, and we started off a little slow, and we turned it around a little by being aggressive with Cambage.”

    On team closing out the game in the fourth quarter

    “I think it was Candace and Chelsea, they just took over offensively. Most people have a really hard time dealing with them, especially when Candace is being aggressive in the tunnel. I think that she knew that today, that she had to step up as we were missing a big piece in Nneka. Her stepping up like that is what she’s capable of.”

    Sparks Coach Brian Agler

    On Dallas moving up in the standings

    “Nothing will surprise me about Dallas moving up in the standings. I don’t see them dropping down. They’re well coached, they defend, they have great talent, and they pose us issues. Fortunately, we only play them one more time, and fortunately it’s here.”

    On Chelsea’s performance

    “Dallas puts a lot of pressure on you in regard to how hard they go to the offensive boards in which she got tangled up. However, the thing about Chelsea is she’s confident, she’s persistent, and she stayed with it and made some really key plays down the stretch, and she hit a big shot.”

    Sparks Assistant Coach Bobby Kelsey

    On Coach Agler’s ejection

    “He was fighting for the team and felt that we weren’t getting some of the calls that were obvious in our opinion. That’s what were here for, to support the coach and what the team needs.

    Wings Center Liz Cambage

    On biggest difference between last game (101-72 victory against the Sparks)

    “They switched up their lineup a bit, went smaller with Candace at the 5, and personally I need to pick up my defense and I didn’t do a good enough job when it was Candace on the court and I had to guard her.”

    On significance of offensive rebounds in the loss

    “It’s hustle plays, something we have been struggling with, and a focus of ours the past couple of games.”

    Wings Forward Kayla Thornton

    On learning from this game going to the next one

    “We have a back to back, so we need to turn around and reposition quickly, look at this game as a learning point. I think we had different defensive lapses. We have to look at it as team defense, myself personally I know I can do better on defense for the team. We just have to turn around, we have Las Vegas, another young team that’s kind of playing well and we have to go in there and it’s going to take all of us to get this win.”

    On whether Coach Agler’s ejection affected either team

    “I didn’t really look into that, but I guess with any team when your coach gets ejected that kind of gives you a little fiery side. It might have, it might have not, but we were definitely capable of winning this game, kind of let loose at the end. Just have to learn from that.”

    Wings Coach Fred Williams

    On not being able to contain Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray

    “I thought they made some tough shots, big shots. Gray is a player who shoots off one foot a lot and she’s hard to guard. With Parker, we knew she was going to try to come back and regain strength from the last game we played. We had a player-and-a-half on her, and on the backside of defense, a couple players lost vision and she made some key passes down that three-minute stretch to get a couple lay-ups on us.”

    On Liz Cambage’s impressive performance

    “She’s just playing hard and playing through a lot of situations in there. Her numbers speak for themselves and what she’s been doing. Defensively, I think she’s altering shots and doing what she needs to do there. That’s why I think a lot of the scores have been pretty low in some of our games. Liz is going to improve each game we play. She’s getting in better shape.”

    On Skylar Diggins-Smith’s below-average night

    “She didn’t hit the open shots she wanted to hit down the key stretches, but we want her to take those. Passing wise, she was trying to distribute the ball inside and get Liz touches. Sometimes when you do that, that takes away the game for us with shooting outside. It’s one of those games where if we hit a few big shots toward the end–the last two or three minutes—it would have been a different story. The Sparks played hard and did what they needed to do.”

    On takeaways going into next matchup against the Las Vegas Aces

    “I think right now just a little bit more ball movement, and then rotation on the backside of defense. We have to really improve on that, and tonight just get some rest. We have a back-to-back; it’s our first one.”