Arlington, TX -- Two teams, with two very different missions, faced off in Arlington on Saturday night for the first time this season. The undefeated Los Angeles Sparks, came eager to extend their blemish-free season to 9-0, while the Dallas Wings looked to snap a five-game skid and get back to their winning ways. Los Angeles never allowed the Wings to take flight beating them, 97-73.
The Sparks won the tip off and got on the board first. Nneka Ogwumike scored the first four points for Los Angeles, as they got off to an early 11-2 lead, forcing Dallas to take an early timeout.
Halfway through the first quarter, Skylar Diggins entered the game for the first time since her season debut on 5/21 versus the San Antonio Stars. She picked up a quick foul trying to help the Wings find a spark in their offense, but Wings Head Coach Fred Williams thought, "she had some spark, she hit a couple of baskets.
"A few mental errors, some bad passes, but that's expected... Overall pleased on how she kept her poise the minute she stepped out on the floor."
The Sparks ran like a well-oiled machine throughout the first and Dallas struggled to keep up. The chemistry for Los Angeles was evident, while the Wings searched desperately to find theirs.
Los Angeles was very much in command of the first quarter taking a 26-11 lead into the second. Ogwumike led the way for the Sparks with 15 points and Diggins led Dallas with four.
Aerial Powers scored the first seven points of the second quarter for the Wings, but the Sparks always had an answer. Los Angeles took a commanding 38-18 lead, before Odyssey Sims got on the board with a three for Dallas.
Diggins continued to provide a boost to the Wings' offense, while Sims also added much-needed energy. Despite a visible difference in Dallas' offense, the Sparks lead remained strong.
Glory Johnson and Powers, made back-to-back threes for the Wings with two minutes left, but Los Angeles did what they had done the entire game: responded with their own points.
From an on-court perspective, Powers thought Los Angeles "moved the ball extremely well in half-court... And fast break was really good too," which contributed to the Sparks taking a 50-32 lead into the half. Ogwumike led all scorers with 22 points. Powers led all bench players with 12 points.
Sims got the scoring started quickly with a layup seconds into the third, but Ogwumike answered by adding to her already large point total with a layup. Erin Phillips notched her first points of the game for Dallas, in her first game against her former team since being acquired via trade from L.A. in March of this year.
A Karima Christmas three, followed by a Sims layup, forced Los Angeles to take a timeout. The Sparks still held onto a double-digit lead, but the Wings narrowed their deficit to 13. A three by Sims later cut Los Angeles' lead to 11, their smallest lead since 5:10 remained in the first quarter. Sims led the way for Dallas with seven points in the quarter.
Kristi Toliver made her presence known by forcing Dallas to make a few fouls, sending her to the line. For the Sparks, Ana Dabovic found herself in foul trouble landing her on the bench with a minute left in the third.
Turnovers and missed opportunities plagued Dallas and contributed to the Sparks taking a 69-57 lead into the final quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Candace Parker headed to the locker room with a facial injury - a loss on both sides of the ball for Los Angeles. Parker would not return and will be re-evaluated by doctors in Los Angeles to determine further action. She finished with six points and eight rebounds.
The Sparks took their largest lead of the game with over three minutes to go, 91-61. Sims led the way with 18 points for the Wings, but Los Angeles' early lead was too much for the Dallas to overcome.
Leading scorer on the night, Ogwumike, shared what has been making the team successful this season.
"We just understand what we need with the people that we have," said Ogwumike. "I think we are also doing a really good job at responding to people's surges in the flow of the game, and we're getting better at making adjustments."
Ogwumike entered the game 18 points shy of 2,000 career points, which she achieved in the second quarter. She finished the game with a season-high 32 points, only three shy of tying her career high.
Sparks Head Coach Brian Agler, had high words of praise for her post-game: "Her focus and her leadership just makes her one of the most dominant players in the league right now. She really impacts how we play."
The Wings were simply unmatched by a smooth-operating Sparks team on this particular night, who proved once again why they are undefeated. Dallas looks to snap their losing skid Tuesday on the road against the New York Liberty, while Los Angeles aims to extend their unbeaten streak to 10 games, when they face off at home against the Chicago Sky, also on Tuesday.