A slow start to the game by the LA Sparks resulted in an 89-86 defeat by the hands of the Connecticut Sun to wrap up the regular season.
Candace Parker ended the season with a double-double, grabbing ten rebounds, while scoring 20 points. Jantel Lavender, who got the start instead of Nneka Ogwumike, made the most of her appearance. She finished second on the team with 17, and added an assist, a steal, and four rebounds to boot.
Nneka Ogwumike, along with her sister Chiney Ogwumike, missed today’s game. Ogwumike was a last second scratch for feeling under the weather, while her sister was dealing with knee soreness.
Update: Nneka Ogwumike is NOT injured and is simply not feeling well. For precautionary reasons, the team has decided to sit her out.— Delmy Barillas (@DelmyBarillas) August 19, 2018
Sparks Get Pushed Around Early
Once again, the Sparks dug themselves into a first quarter hole. Jonquel Jones sank a three point shot to tie the game at five. It was that moment that shifted momentum towards the Sun. They scored five more quick points to double up LA.
With the game tied at 16, after Maria Vadeeva drained a jumper, Connecticut’s Jones started another run with a made bucket of her own. The Sun finished up the quarter scoring the final ten of 12 to open up an eight point advantage.
Connecticut did not slow down opening up the second frame, racking up 12 more points to make it 38-20. The combination of Jones and Jasmine Thomas was lethal. Thomas showcased her ability from the outside, making her first four attempts from that range, with Jones dominating inside.
But the Sparks were not going down quietly. Riquna Williams, Essence Carson, and Lavender got LA back within 12 points half way into the quarter. Thomas, though, drilled another three pointer to kill off whatever ground Parker and company were gaining. Lavender got the Sparks within nine points. A Shekinna Stricklen jumper inside 60 seconds left in the half, made a bucket to extend Connecticut’s edge back to double digits.
LA Unable to Complete Comeback
At the beginning of the second half, the Sparks looked more engaged. They were attacking with efficiency, while clamping down on defense.
A rejuvenated offense saw the Sparks slowly trim away at Connecticut’s lead, despite being down by 19 at one point. Odyssey Sims and Carson traded baskets with each other to get back within nine points. With three seconds left in the quarter, Chelsea Gray made a big time three pointer to cut the Sun’s lead to a mere six points.
Gray, with six minutes remaining, hit a jumper to keep it 73-67. She then converted a layup to make the deficit only eight after Connecticut regained a double digit lead. Sims made both of her free throw attempts to get within five of the Sun.
Carson and Williams kept things interesting after trimming Connecticut’s advantage to three. Then Parker, with five seconds to go, drilled the biggest three pointer of the season to get the Sparks down only one possession. Parker, who had been frustrated all game long, got a technical very late in the contest. But, that was as close as LA would get in the closing seconds, unable to find the energy to complete their comeback.
This loss solidifies the Sparks, who finished the season with a record of 19-15, as the fifth seed in the WNBA Playoffs. Because of that, LA will host either the Dallas Wings or Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday at Staples.