After traveling across the country for the second time in less than a week, the LA Sparks had to give everything they had left in order to stave off a second single elimination game.
Against the Washington Mystics, who were well rested after not playing since Sunday, they could not find their rhythm on either end of the court. As a result, the Sparks fell to Washington by a score of 96-64 to end their season.
“Defensively, when we were not getting stops, it had a lot to do with the way we were playing on offense because we were not able to ever get our defense set,” Candace Parker said after.
“When you are playing like this and you are going backwards, it is a downward slope. You are not going to have quality shots.”
For Washington, Elena Delle Donne led all scorers with 19 points and was often the catalyst for the Mystics. And with this victory, she will look to continue to keep the Mystic’s hopes alive of winning their first appearance in the WNBA Finals.
Sparks Can’t Find Rhythm on Offense
Normally, the box score does not tell the whole story, but it does for this game. LA shot poor from the field, making only 24 of 70 attempts. Their shooting percentage from deep was even worse, connecting on a mere 27% from that range.
Candace Parker on Thursday night was the only member of the Sparks to finish the night in double figures. Parker, battling a slew of ailments, scored 17 points on 43.75% shooting.
The heroes from the previous game, Nneka Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray, were non-factors, combining for just 15 points total.
Things did not look so doom and gloom when the contest began. Alana Beard, Parker, and Williams started the attack for LA, with Beard scoring four during this run. Then, Washington started to impose their will on a weary Sparks squad.
Elena Delle Donne led the soaring comeback. She scored eight points in the opening ten minutes, helping her side go on an impressive 21-5 run to close the quarter. During the frame, five other Mystics found nylon in what was a well-balanced attack.
Washington continued to turn on the offensive jets during quarter number two. Delle Donne extended her team’s lead to 12 points when she completed an and-one. Next, Natasha Cloud and Tianna Hawkins hit two consecutive three-pointers to push the Mystics in front by 14.
The Sparks did not score a single point in the final three minutes and 40 seconds in the half after Parker sank a 13-foot basket. Ogwumike and Gray scored a measly one point during the opening 20 minutes, which was a far cry from their performance two days ago.
Mystics Continue to Add to Their Advantage
LA’s Parker sank a shot from behind the arch in the beginning moments of the third. But then, Washington responded by scoring ten of the following 12 points to further increase their lead.
“People thrive because they have the chemistry and they know what people are good at and what people like to do,” Ogwumike said on what makes Washington so tough.
“That makes it tough. That makes it really tough. I just feel like they are playing stress free. That is kind of what it seems like. They are playing stress free.”
Gray and Ogwumike only stopped the bleeding temporarily when the pair drilled eight points, as the Sparks were still down by more than 20.
There was a faint glimmer of hope for the Sparks to start the final quarter in the nation’s capital. Sims scored the first five points before Ogwumike added two more. LaTroy Sanders regained most of Washington’s momentum after she hit a clutch two-point attempt. The Sparks countered, though, scored the next six to cut the Mystics’ edge to 18 points.
Washington never looked back after that, however. In a little more than three minutes, the Mystics rattled off eight straight buckets to finish off this contest.
The Washington Mystics playoffs hope continue on Sunday where they will begin a best of three series with the Atlanta Dream.
What’s next for the Sparks?
Decisions are going to have to be made during this offseason. A big portion of their role players will be free agents this summer, which include Beard, Essence Carson, Sims, and Williams. Finally, Karlie Samuelsson, who officially joined the squad mid-season, will also be looking for a new home next season.
Who will be back to start the 2019 season? Tune in throughout the offseason for further updates!