The three-time WNBA Champion Los Angeles Sparks shined against the defending champion Seattle Storm in their final regular season game at Staples Center, winning 81- 53. The Sparks played one of their most complete games of the season as four Sparks scored 15 or more points including: Te’a Cooper (19), Erica Wheeler (17), Nneka Ogwumike (17), and Brittney Sykes (15).
Sykes had a double-double with 10 rebounds to go with her 15 points and held Jewell Loyd to a season-low five points. The Storm scored a season low 53 points, and shot just 22% from the field. Sparks forward Nia Coffey recorded two blocked shots, and the Sparks had six steals.
With the win, the Sparks avoided elimination from playoff contention.
The Sparks hosted HBCU Night and also honored 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Winner Zaila Avant-garde. General Manager/Head Coach Derek Fisher credited Avantgarde’s presence and wisdom in helping the Sparks prepare.
“I just think it was a good reminder for our players that you don’t have the right to go out and not just leave it all out there pretending to get another chance,” Fisher said. “Her presence made a difference for our team which put what we do in perspective.”
In the first quarter alone, the Sparks shot 60% from the field and clicked offensively. Ogwumike led the way with eight points and two rebounds. With 2:19 to play, Sparks center Lauren Cox drove down the lane, drew the double team, and then dumped the ball down low to Ogwumike for the easy layup. On the very next play, Cox missed a layup, and Ogwumike was there for the offensive board and bucket. Just a tease of the Sparks’ first quarter dominance as they led 24-13.
“Our defense has really been our anchor all season,” Fisher said. “We’ve made it really difficult for teams to score.”
The Sparks shot a blistering 55.6% from the 3-point line and out-rebounded the Storm 21- 14 in the first half. Ogwumike and Erica Wheeler led their first-half offense. In a viral moment, Wheeler placed 5-time Olympic Gold Medalist Sue Bird on skates as Wheeler crossed her up at the right elbow and attempted the 15-foot jumper. Then, Wheeler took Bird all the way down the lane, knocked down the layup through contact, and completed a 3-point play. The Sparks led 45-27 at the end of two quarters. Cooper (13) and Wheeler (10) combined for the Sparks 23 of the Sparks first-half points.
Different half, same dominance.
With six minutes to play in the third quarter, 6-foot-1 Coffey blocked 6-foot-3 Katie Lou Samuelson’s layup attempt into the backcourt. Brittney Sykes grabbed the loose ball and drove coast-to-coast to draw the foul on her layup attempt. She knocked down both free throws. That was the first of two major Coffey blocks leading to points in the quarter. The Sparks entered the fourth quarter leading 66-40, their largest of the game. The Storm shot just 30% from the field at the end of three quarters and recorded 11 turnovers. The Sparks capitalized, 19 points off those turnovers. All being said, the Sparks asserted themselves in the second half.
“The game for us right now is composure and consistency,” Ogwumike said. “For us to be able to see that we’re capable of having that type of game from start to finish, shows that there’s a standard by which we have to operate.”
Los Angeles shot 92% from the free throw line, after struggling to get the whistle to go their way over the last several games. Rather poetic, that the team continued working through offensive woes, a long road trip, and their playoff hopes on the line had one of their best performances of the season.
The Sparks wrap up the 2021 regular season on the road for their last two games. They will travel to play against the Atlanta Dream on Thursday, September 16 at 4:00 PM PT before taking on the Dallas Wings on Sunday, Sept. 19.