Sparks Season Ends with Game 3 Semifinals Loss to Sun

LONG BEACH, Calif. – The Los Angeles Sparks could not stave off elimination in Game 3 of the WNBA Semifinals, falling 78-56 to the Connecticut Sun at the Walter Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach. The Sun backcourt of Jasmine Thomas and Courtney Williams continued their strong player with 29 and 17 points, respectively, as Connecticut completed a three-game series sweep. Nneka Ogwumike recorded a team-high 17 points and six rebounds for Los Angeles in the losing effort.

Candace Parker opened scoring with a layup that moved her to seventh all-time in WNBA playoff points, passing Deanna Nolan. Williams responded by tallying Connecticut’s first seven points to take control for the Sun. A Williams transition layup extended the lead to 11-4 at the 3:44 mark, but Los Angeles found energy of their own in Alana Beard to counter the Connecticut barrage. Beard nailed a 14-foot jumper, forced Thomas into a turnover, and converted a layup in the final three minutes of play to help the Sparks stay afloat.

Connecticut held a 14-11 edge to open the second quarter, but Nneka Ogwumike and Alexis Jones combined for a quick five points to retake the lead. It would not hold, however, as Thomas scored 11 points over the next four minutes to drive a 15-2 Connecticut run. Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray responded with a 10-point burst, scoring six and four points, respectively, to narrow the deficit, and a Chiney Ogwumike layup cut the Sun advantage to three with 1:36 remaining. The Sparks would get no closer, though, as Connecticut extended the lead to 40-32 at the break.

Connecticut used a 15-5 run to pull away from Los Angeles at the start of the second half. The Sparks showed signs of life with four minutes to play in the third quarter as Nneka Ogwumike made a driving layup, stole the ball and converted in transition on consecutive possessions. Chiney Ogwumike joined her sister with a steal and two free throws, but the Sun responded by rattling off an 8-0 run that pushed the lead to 19.

The deficit proved too much for Los Angeles to overcome throughout the remainder of the game. Head coach Derek Fisher dipped into his bench to close out the fourth quarter and received encouraging performances from his young players, highlighted by five points from Jones and four from rookie Kalani Brown.