For the first time all season, the Los Angeles Sparks have lost consecutive games. This time, against the speedy Las Vegas Aces, Los Angeles fell 94-78 at the Delano Las Vegas.
On a night when Candace Parker struggled shooting the ball, and with Nneka Ogwumike out again because of a nagging back injury, Chelsea Gray stepped up.
Gray put together her best offensive night, scoring 22 points on 7-15 shooting, while netting four three-point attempts. If Gray is able to continue scoring like this when Parker finds her form again and when Ogwumike is healthy, that would bode well for the Sparks.
Las Vegas Scores from the Stripe
Arguably the biggest factor in this game was the amount of fouls the Aces were able to draw. Las Vegas managed to get to the free throw line a whopping 31 times on Friday night. When you compare that to the Sparks’ 13 attempts, it is quite remarkable.
And the Aces were able to capitalize on their opportunities, sinking 23 shots from the charity stripe. Their ability to make those shots when it mattered most was all the difference Vegas would need.
Parker made note of their ability to battle after the loss, saying “They’re a good team, they’re scrappy. They [have] a coach in [Bill] Laimbeer that is bringing in a specific system that he’s had in Detroit and New York.
So we know they’re going to be physical, they’re going to claw up the paint defensively.”
Los Angeles Sparks Have Poor Shooting Night
Parker’s poor shooting night started in the opening ten minutes of the game on Friday, despite Los Angeles opening with a 10-2 run.
During the first quarter the Sparks’ star made just one of her five buckets that frame. Perhaps the travel and the game the night before played into Parker’s lack of shooting ability.
Bill Laimbeer said on shutting down Parker, “P art of it was, I think Candace Parker was tired, we were in her space throughout the course of the game, Hamby got on her a fair amount.
We played a good team defense anytime somebody tried to attack the paint, we cut that off, so she didn’t get the open looks like she’s used to, but I think she was just a little tired tonight.”
Both teams were trading three point shots at the halfway point of the second quarter. Essence Carson, who scored 17 points on Friday, pulled the Sparks within one with a three pointer.
“I just do what the team needs me to do, contributing whether it’s defensively (or) offensively, would’ve been better if we would’ve pulled out a win,” Carson said after the loss.
“But again, I’m just here to do the dirty work and try to get things done.”
Vegas Energy Enough for the Win
Vegas responded with a three point shot of their own on the next possession. Then, Parker drained her only shot from behind the arc to get the Sparks close once more.
The Aces were the fresher of the two teams and that showed in the second half of this contest. Because of that, they were able to use their speed to pull away. Las Vegas went on a 6-0 and a 5-0 run to open up a 15-point lead to start the second half.
Up by 12 points in the fourth, Los Angeles turned the ball over twice in a row, extending the Aces’ advantage to 16 with little time remaining.
For all that pace, though, A’ja Wilson provided a different look for Las Vegas. The Aces’ number one pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft turned it up on offense in the second half.
“[Wilson] had a great game tonight, is very aggressive, making the right calls and you don’t see that a lot from a rookie,” said Parker on Wilson.
The rookie scored a majority of her points when she was finally able to dominate down low. Wilson scored 11 points in the third, making half of her attempts and drilled 5-6 from the free throw line. She added ten more in the final frame, helping her team pull off the big win.
If there was a bright spot for the Sparks, it was Maria Vadeeva. The Russian rookie had a career night on Friday. She scored ten points and hauled down seven rebounds, including two offensive boards. Vadeeva has come into her own quickly and will more than likely see more playing time as the season goes on.
Luckily, the Sparks will have an opportunity for redemption on Sunday afternoon. They will face Las Vegas for the second time this season at Staples Center.