On Tuesday, the Dallas Wings joined the Sparks in LA for a rematch, after beating the Sparks by 29 points last Friday on their home court. However, this time it was a different ball game.
The Sparks were resilient and won this one with an all around team effort. However, It did not include Nneka Ogwumike as she was out due to a back injury. Instead, Jantel Lavender was put into the starting lineup to replace Ogwumike.
Los Angeles Rebound Throughout
The Wings set the tone to start the game as Azurá Stevens hit the first two points to open out the game for Dallas, Chelsea Grey immediately responded with a lay-up to tie.
However, for the next two minutes of the game the Wings went on an 8-0 run taking the lead 10-2. Candace Parker picked up the tempo, along with efforts from Lavender to get the team within two points.
But Skylar Diggins-Smith answered with a three and a technical free throw to increase their lead to 15-10. But LA went on a 7-0 run, after forcing four consecutive turnovers from the Wings, and finished out the quarter 21-18.
Los Angeles returned to the second quarter with Riquna Williams hitting a huge 3-point shot to take a 25-24 edge. With six minutes left in the quarter, Glory Johnson nailed her own three to retake the lead for the Wings. Williams, however, was superb, and answered back again to tie the game.
Dallas Coach Fred Williams took a short timeout and his team came out on an 8-0 run with efforts from Liz Cambage and Stevens. Once again, the Sparks responded as Parker set the tempo with a lay-up, and a third 3-pointer from Williams, which brought the score to 38-35.
Agler Tossed from the Game
The Sparks came out strong in the opening of the third. Alana Beard connected on a fast break lay-up for Parker as she ran the floor.
Shortly after, Los Angeles forced a turnover, as Parker swiped the ball away from Cambage, for a coast-to-coast finish on the other end. Things were looking promising for LA but with only 6:49 minutes to go in the quarter, Coach Agler was called for a technical foul after Beard was called for a reach-in foul.
When asked if he had anticipated the technical Coach Agler said, “I didn’t anticipate it happening because my comment was, ‘Don’t reward them for our good defense,’ and that was it.”
A smiling Candace Parker said, “…’I asked him did you earn it?’” Unfortunately there was nothing the Sparks could have done about that and they would have to finish out the game without their head coach.
Bobbie Kelsey on stepping in after Brian Agler got ejected: “That’s what we’re here for, we’re here to support what he’s doing and what the team needs, and I was just doing my job and Bryce (Agler) and Tonya (Edwards) and all of us were collaborating.”
— LASportsAccess (@LASportsAccess) June 27, 2018
Williams tied the game in the third with another 3-pointer and they took the lead 60-58. But the Wings went on another 10-0 run. With a minute left in the quarter, free throws from Sims and Gray put the Sparks down only four, closing out the quarter 68-64.
Despite losing every quarter they dominated the fourth. In the first 7 minutes of the quarter Los Angeles took the lead, 71-68 and kept the lead for the remainder of the game.
They forced turnovers and capitalized on their shots. With only 39 seconds left in the quarter the Wings went on a 5-0 run bringing them within one point. Gray would respond with a 16-foot jumper that put them back up three, the Sparks finished the night at the free throw line, taking the win 87-83.
Parker led all scorers with a season-high 29 points, seven assists, and five rebounds. Chelsea Gray finished with 23 points, and 3 assists. Riquna Williams was efficient again, contributing 12 points, connecting on four key 3-point shots that led the way.
Dallas Wings’ Liz Cambage ended the night with 25 points and 14 rebounds. Kayla Thornton, meanwhile, ended with 16 points, and six boards, and Diggins-Smith ended with 12 points and 5 assists.
Too Much Cambage?
With a major rebounding presence like Ogwumike missing from the line up, Cambage was a real threat to the Sparks.
Hustle plays were key’s to this game as were limiting second chance shots and shutting down Dallas defensively. Parker said, “We just try to do the best we can by committee. For us against them it’s just rebounding and blocking them out.
“We did a good job of breaking down the defense, finding shooters, and getting in the lane and finishing,” Parker said.
With Ogwumike helping coach the team last night, the Sparks were still able to pull through with a win over Dallas. However, her presence was missed.
Parker mentioned, “Nneka is irreplaceable…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.”
The Sparks confirmed it was a last minute decision not to play Ogwumike and they were just going based on how she felt. Coach Agler confirmed that she did have an MRI and they were still waiting to hear back on the results.
Vadeeva Steps Up
With Ogwumike on the bench, rookie Maria Vadeeva could be a promising presence for the Sparks. Standing at 6′ 4″ Vadeeva can run the court, score in the paint, and defend the basket well.
As a professional in Russia, Vadeeva was exposed to this level of play, having played against many of the WNBA’s best players in the Russian League. This experience has helped with her transition into the WNBA, as a 19-year-old rookie.
Tuesday was Vadeeva’s most effective night shooting the ball since coming over from her home country. She shot 3-5 from the field, brought down six rebounds, blocked a shot, and recorded her first 3-point shot in the WNBA.
Coach Agler and the team are very excited to see her progress. He said, “Masha (Maria Vadeeva) is just continually getting better. We knew that she was going to be a great player for us.”