Los Angeles, CA – “Sparks” flew on Friday night, as the Chicago Sky took on the Los Angeles Sparks in their second game of the WNBA Semifinals best-of-five game series. The energy in the Staples Center -- and from its home team -- was nothing short of electric as Brian Agler fanned his ‘Sparks’ into an unstoppable fire of determination, skill, and ultimately a 99-84 victory.
At the beginning of the first quarter, it seemed that Chicago was ready to redeem themselves from their 20-point loss in game one. Even with star player Elena Delle Donne, still benched due to injury, the Sky began the game assertively, with Cappie Pondexter stepping up her individual game, and leading the team in a point-for-point first quarter. Chicago showed promise for the evening, leading by one point with only seconds left in the first.
It was then that their sky would be clouded by the best long-range shooter Los Angeles has to offer, Kristi Toliver. With literally seconds until the buzzer, Toliver remarkably brought the Sparks back into a 23-21 lead with a tough three-pointer. Unfortunately for the Sky, this basket completely altered the forecast for the game. A raging thunderstorm in the form of Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, and Jantel Lavender would create a dismal remaining three-quarters for Chicago.
Even with a different line-up at the beginning of the second quarter, the Sky could not extinguish the Sparks’ newfound flame. With a reputation of a poor-performing defensive team, Chicago would have to rely on their offense. However, when you’re in a shooting contest with an on fire Parker, you are bound to lose- and that is exactly what happened. Parker, along with Toliver, took the Sparks’ to a 15-point lead at the break.
Chicago simply seemed to stand back and wave as the Sparks’ zoomed past them and left them eating dust, scoring 57 points in 20 minutes of play -- the most of their entire year.
By the third quarter, the only thing Chicago should’ve been focused on was keeping the ball away from the unmatchable, triple-threat, that is Parker. Instead, they showed no aggression. With Los Angeles shooting 53% from the floor, they were in the driver’s seat for the game and had no intention of riding shotgun!
At the end of the third, it became clear that the Sparks were putting the pedal to the metal, and were now a mere 10 minutes away from their next destination: a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Those final 10 minutes proved to be grueling for the Sky. As Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” played ironically over the loud speaker in Staples Center, Los Angeles kept up its domination on the court. With 4:35 left in the quarter, jack-of-all-trades Parker took the bench with 20 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists.
However, she was not the only who scored in double digits for the evening. Of course, her post counterpart, Ogwumike, would end the game strong with 18 points, followed closely by Toliver with 17 points, and Essence Carson with 11. Yet, it was this year’s Sixth Woman of the Year Lavender, who matched Parker with 20 points and shot 10-for-11 on field goals.
All of these efforts combined gave Los Angeles a 22-point advantage with 3:01 left in the game, allowing Agler to play every single one of his players on the bench for the remainder of the game.
After a dismal evening, the Sky will return to Chicago for the third game of the series on Sunday. Will they finally be able to defend Parker and company to keep their season alive? Or will they once again be overcome by the Sparks’ raging flame?