The Los Angeles Sparks dropped their last game of the regular season to the Las Vegas Aces 84-70 on Saturday, but still earned the No. 3 seed, securing a first-round bye in the WNBA playoffs.
Nneka Ogwumike led Los Angeles with a season-high 24 points, followed by MVP candidate Candace Parker, who achieved her league-leading tenth double-double of the season with 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Chelsea Gray amassed 11 assists, her season-high, just two assists behind her career-best.
Before the game, Sparks head coach Derek Fisher spoke about the keys to guarantee a Sparks win.
“We really have to make sure we’re off to a solid start in the beginning,” Fisher said. “We need to limit the turnovers because Vegas is so good at punishing you after a turnover.”
Fisher also pointed out the threat the Aces posed in the paint, which Vegas proved, scoring 20 points in the paint in the first half alone. The Aces led 43-35 at the half due to their strong interior presence.
In the third quarter, the Sparks put a stop to Vegas’ momentum, outscoring the Aces 25-21, led by Parker and Ogwumike combining for 15 points. The Sparks cut the Aces lead to 64-60 heading into the fourth quarter.
But the story of the afternoon for Los Angeles was cold shooting, as the team as L.A. scored just 10 points in the fourth quarter, shooting 27-for-72 from the field and 22.7% behind the arc for the game, their lowest shooting percentages of their season. Las Vegas also dominated with 38 rebounds compared to the Sparks 29.
“We are talented enough to be scoring 85-90 in the postseason,” Candace Parker said after the game. “Tonight we just scored 70. Yes, it is on the defensive end but also when we are in our half, we have to move and cut with a purpose and get somebody else open.”
A’ja Wilson filled up the stat sheet with 19 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. Angel McCoughtry scored 18 points and Kayla McBride followed with 17.
The Sparks will play their first game of the 2020 WNBA playoffs on Thursday, Sept. 17 in the secondround, which is single-elimination. They’ll face the lowest remaining seed from Tuesday’s first-round action at 6 p.m. PT on ESPN2.
“We very much understand that the season is not over, and that’s something we can look forward to,” Ogwumike said. “We’re looking to get that rest and really come into this playoff swing with some new energy and a great run.”
The entire 2020 WNBA postseason will air live on the ESPN family of networks which includes ABC, ESPN and ESPN2.
Los Angeles Highlights:
• Nneka Ogwumike scored a season-high 24 points.
• Chelsea Gray passed 800 career assists recording a season-high 11 in today’s contest for a total of 807 tying her for 49th all-time with Tina Thompson.
• Candace Parker hit 2900 career rebounds keeping her at 9th all-time.
• The team shot just 37.5% from the field and 22.7% from the three-point line.