Los Angeles, CA — The Los Angeles Sparks returned from a four-game undefeated road trip, to pick up a victory over the San Antonio Stars in front of their home crowd for the first time since their home opener two weeks ago. The Sparks defeated the Stars, 68-61, but it was not without struggle.
"Today was one of those grind it out games," Candace Parker said. "To see us score in the 60s, obviously we don't want that night in and night out, but to be able to win and play their game, can be a positive."
The Sparks offense came out hot, scoring their first nine points off of consecutive threes from Candace Parker, Kristi Toliver and Alana Beard. The San Antonio Stars' only strong presence came from Kayla McBride, with nine points in the quarter. Six of the Stars' points came from the free-throw line and the Sparks ended the first quarter ahead of the Stars, 25-19.
"I like the way we started out and the aggressiveness we had," Parker said. "When we are aggressive, we are a dangerous team, but we stopped being aggressive in the second quarter, and we can't do that."
As Parker alluded, the offensive heat that the Los Angeles Sparks radiated in the first quarter rapidly fizzled in the second. The ball seemed to refuse to enter the net with the team shooting a dismal 18 percent from the field.
"We might have gotten distracted by the threes we made in the first quarter," Nneka Ogwumike said. "That caused a stagnate offense in the second quarter, and the ball wasn't moving."
Both the Sparks and Stars began the quarter with four points, and looked as though the fast scoring pace would continue. Instead, what followed was a three-minute scoring drought for both teams. McBride's layup ended the drought for the Stars. San Antonio went on to put up seven more points, but did not fare much better offensively, shooting 28 percent from the field.
The Sparks only answer finally came at the 1:30 mark in the form of Ogwumike's jumper. The quarter ended as Kristi Toliver drained a three-point shot to beat the buzzer. Despite the Sparks' offensive mess, the Stars were never able to fully capitalize to take the lead. Los Angeles remained in the lead at the half, 35-31.
"We need to focus more on executing now," Ogwumike said. "We focused more on defense after our last game. We cleaned it up, but we need to focus on executing. You can't let your offense dwindle while you're working on your defense, so we need to balance out the two."
Both teams remained sloppy throughout the third quarter scoring few and far between. The Stars outscored the Sparks by one point, but it still was not enough. Los Angeles held onto their lead with the help of their bench, 49-46.
Sparks regained some of their spark in the fourth quarter. They took their largest lead of the game, pulling ahead by nine points.
Los Angeles managed to hold onto the win, 68-61, remaining undefeated on the season. The Stars drop to 1-4.
"San Antonio had a lot to do with how we played tonight. They made it difficult for us," Sparks Head Coach Brian Agler said. "They got us in the half court and made us spend several seconds each possession defending them. Secondly, they really hurt us on the offensive glass. Because of that, we couldn't get in transition."
Ogwumike led the team with a game-high 21 points, followed by Chelsea Gray's 11 points. Parker, the WNBA's Western Conference Player of the Week, finished with 10 points.
McBride led the Stars with 21 points. The Stars second leading scorer was Kayla Alexander, who finished with 14 points.
McBride attributed the success to the Stars' rebounding, but noted growing pains on the team.
"It's a lack of chemistry," she said. "We need to know where to get the ball and slow down. I think we had tunnel vision at the end offensively. It's the little things we have to remind ourselves of to succeed going forward."
The Sparks and Stars meet again soon, Saturday in San Antonio at the AT&T Center with a 5 p.m start. Los Angeles will then return home on Tuesday to take on Essence Carson's former team, the New York Liberty, at 7 p.m.