LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles Sparks defeated the Atlanta Dream with a dominating second-half performance, 84-75. Nneka Ogwumike's 38-point double-double propelled her team to victory, and the Sparks extend to 15-1 to make WNBA history.
The Sparks and Dream were neck-and-neck throughout the first quarter. Candace Parker looked to build on the fire that she ignited in Tuesday's 31-point game. Her and Ogwumike led the first-quarter effort for the Sparks with eight and six points, respectively.
Tiffany Hayes was then left open two consecutive times in the same area to put up five quick points, giving the Dream their first lead of the game.
Ogwumike brought the Sparks on top again after grabbing two points at the line followed by a Parker-assisted field goal.
The Dream briefly brought the score to a tie with less than a minute to go, but Parker's floater closed the quarter at 19-18 with the Sparks ahead.
All but three of the Sparks' first quarter points were earned in the paint, compared to Atlanta's eight. Los Angeles failed to capitalize on anything from beyond the arc.
The Dream opened the second quarter with several baskets, and Los Angeles was forced to call an early timeout. The timeout ignited Ogwumike's spark, who went on to pick up eight more points.
Hayes, however, continued to be a strong force for the Dream, giving her team their largest lead of the game thus far at seven points ahead. She finished the half with 19 points.
Essence Carson answered with an explosive three from the top of the arc followed by Kristi Toliver's first bucket of the game, also from beyond the arc.
This wasn't enough to deter the Dream's steady offense, and Atlanta ended the half on top, 37-35.
The Sparks defensive struggles allowed the Dream, who has the league's lowest three-point shooting percentage, to walk into the locker room with 40 percent from beyond the arc. Atlanta also out-rebounded Los Angeles in the first half, 21-13.
The Dream opened the half with consecutive fast-break baskets from Elizabeth Williams and Hayes, and it looked as if this quarter would be similar to the previous two.
Los Angeles then flexed its potent second half muscles. Ogwumike and Carson picked up back-to-back and-ones to take the lead, followed by Parker's three consecutive baskets.
"I told everyone at halftime that we were going eighty percent, which is almost worse than going fifty percent because you're wasting all this energy and not finishing off the plays," Ogwumike said. "We wanted to just come out and be as aggressive as we could and just respond on the offensive end."
Ogwumike continued to shine as Los Angeles' defense strengthened, and the Sparks pulled ahead to 62-54.
Despite Hayes' consistent, aggressive push, Ogwumike owned the fourth quarter, shooting 16 points in the last ten minutes.
She finished the game with 38 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists to propel the Sparks to victory, 84-75.
Parker and Carson followed Ogwumike with 16 and 15 points, respectively.
Los Angeles knocked down three out of every five shots from the field in the second half, bringing the game average to 50 percent.
"All we had to do on the offensive end was move the ball," Ogwumike said. "More than just moving the ball, it was moving our bodies. We had to screen-and-roll and screen-and-pop, and I think we did a great job at finding each other."
The Sparks continued to work heavy in the paint throughout the game, earning 52 points there.
"Offensively, teams want you to come down and take quick 19-foot jump shots. That's what they want us to do. They don't want to have to guard us," head coach Brian Agler said.
"In the second half, we did a much better job at making a couple extra passes and making the defense move and then getting the ball, which meant getting the ball to Nneka's hands and letting her go to work."
Hayes finished with 32 points for the Dream, but only grabbed two rebounds. Angel McCoughtry, who sits at second in the league for points scored per game at 20.1, was held to just nine points.
"We had a good game, but we just stopped doing the little things," Hayes said. "We're going to go home, keep working on those things, stay positive and stay together, and we're going to get a win."
The Dream head home Sunday to take on the Phoenix Mercury in hopes of snapping their five-game losing streak.
Lavender was the only contributor from the Sparks bench with four points. With this game, she ties DeLisha Milton-Jones for most consecutive games played in franchise history at 154 games.
"I think that's really awesome to play in 154 games straight, and now obviously, I want to break that record," Lavender said. "It feels good to be able to keep my body healthy, and be available for my team whenever they need me to play."
Los Angeles extends to 15-1 for the best start to a season in WNBA history.
"I'm really proud of what we're doing," Ogwumike said. "We're doing an awesome job of just narrowing the focus. We have a microscope on every game, and we're not looking too far into our telescope. We're just doing a great job of focusing on what we know we need to do today."
The Sparks return to Staples Center Sunday to take on the New York Liberty.