LOS ANGELES, CA — The Los Angeles Sparks move ahead to 8-0, dominating the New York Liberty, 100-77.
The Los Angeles Sparks and New York Liberty were neck-and-neck throughout the first quarter, partly because of Liberty's fulfillment of Tina Charles' promise of the team being in "attack mode," and partly because of the Sparks failure to grab easy rebounds. Los Angeles ended the quarter ahead of New York, 27-23.
Jantel Lavender proved to be a bright spot off the bench for the Sparks, leading the team with six points in the first quarter. Nneka Ogwumike, Alana Beard and Candace Parker ended the first quarter with five points apiece, followed by Essence Carson's four.
Parker was scoreless the first nine minutes of the game, but scored a quick five points with a layup off a steal, followed by a three-pointer.
Shavonte Zellous lead the Liberty with eight points, followed by Amanda Zahui B's four, as both players were a spark off the bench.
As Los Angeles' offense exploded in the second quarter, New York's defense quickly fizzled. The Sparks closed out the half ahead of the Liberty, 51-38; this is the most points the Liberty has given up in the first half all season.
"A big part of our offense is getting stops," Ogwumike said. "Tonight we were able to get stops and move the ball. We weren't calling plays today, and it's always nice to not have to go back to your playbook as much."
Ogwumike finished the half with 13 points, while New York's entire starting lineup was only able to put up 17. Zellous remained the highest scorer for the Liberty at 10 points, only scoring two more in the second quarter.
The Sparks were aggressive rebounding in the second quarter, which seemed to be their only weak spot in the first. Ogwumike and Parker were extremely active on the glass, grabbing seven and three rebounds, respectively. No player on the Liberty had more than two rebounds.
Los Angeles completely dominated New York in the second half and solidified their lead. The Sparks pulled ahead by as much as 32 points and shot 57.9 percent at peak delivery.
Toliver lead the quarter with 15 points alone, bringing her to 19 points for the game. Ogwumike had a double-double by the third quarter, with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Lavender led the Sparks as the top scorer, finishing with 22 points.
"I think tonight was a good show of what I can do off the bench," Lavender said. "It's about coming in aggressively and having that mentality to just get to the basket."
Los Angeles defense held Charles -- the league's top scorer averaging 21.4 points per game -- to only seven points.
"Our defense is setting the tone out there, pressuring the guards and making them come down with a short shot clock to rush something," Lavender said. "I give all the credit to the defense."
Lavender also credited the Sparks win to unselfish team play and chemistry. Los Angeles had a massive 30 team assists.
"We had a possession where we passed the ball 10 times," she said. "I've never seen us do that, and it got everybody so hyped. It just shows how our team is really gelling now. It's important to have chemistry both on and off the court, and we definitely have that."
"It's a great group of women here," she said. "Not only are they great women; they are great players with great basketball I.Q. When you combine all that, it makes it so much easier to build chemistry. It seems that we've already played together for years."
Sparks' Chelsea Gray, Ana Dabovic, Jelena Dubljevic and true rookie, Whitney Knight all saw minutes tonight in the blowout.
"We've got a lot of new players," Sparks Head Coach Brian Agler said. "Sometimes a group comes together, and they just mesh, and that's what we have this year. It has a lot to do with the players that have been here who have reeled in the new players and made them feel welcome."
The Sparks closed out the game, 100-77, with its highest point total all season. They head to Dallas on Saturday in hopes of extending their undefeated streak to 9-0.