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Ogwumike’s sizzling 90% shooting sparks LA past Sky

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Los Angeles forward Nneka Ogwumike led the Sparks to its eighth straight win Wednesday in Chicago, thanks to her 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Ryan Young - Swish Appeal

CHICAGO — Sitting atop of the WNBA standings, the Los Angeles Sparks were in a good position.

The Sparks took on the Chicago Sky on Wednesday afternoon in front of a packed house in the Windy City, and things were no different than they have been all season.

And while things got close at the end, Los Angeles once again proved that they're the best team in the league, beating the Sky 77-67.

"I think we're all playing well," said Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike. "We're all just trying to get wins. Any night can be anyone's night, but we do a really good job of distributing play, and defensively we really try to keep it as team oriented as we can, which is what we did tonight.

The Sky started out hot, opening the game on a 7-2 run. But the Sparks quickly proved why they're atop of the WNBA standings, completing a 10-2 run of their own at the end of the first quarter.

The start of the game, though, bothered Sparks coach Brian Agler. While he felt they were prepared, they couldn't find a way to stop the Sky in the opening minutes.

"We knew what they were gong to do, but they're a good team," Agler said. "It's just not easy. We didn't have quite the intensity or the anticipation that we would like, but we got there at some point."

The Sparks continued their hot streak into the second, quickly extending their lead to 10 points. Heading into halftime, the Sparks led 44-35. Ogwumike dropped 12 in the first half, too, going a perfect 6-of-6 from the field.

Los Angeles didn't lose a step out of the locker room at halftime, extending their lead to 12 points through the third quarter. Ogwumike remained perfect from the field, too, going 2-of-2 and adding four more points.

Center Candace Parker said the biggest change for the Sparks was when they were able to figure out the Sky's zone defense — a lot of which, she said was thanks to Ogwumike.

"I think we just were able to figure out holes in their defense," Parker said. "Nneka stepped up huge for us and was able to get in the lane, and we have shooters that space the defense. With Nneka down low and me up top, it's hard for a team to play zone consistently against us."

The Sparks quickly extended their lead one again, going up 16 points with just eight minutes left in the game. With 2:11 left in the game, Chicago had cut the Sparks lead to just six points, the closest they've been since before halftime.

However, two free throws and a three-pointer by Sparks guard Kristi Toliver in the final minute would seal the deal, giving Los Angeles its eighth straight win.

Ogwumike led the Sparks with 20 points and 11 rebounds, going 10-of-11 from the field overall. Wednesday's game also marked her fifth straight game with 20 or more points.

When asked about her strong play, her answer was a simple one.

"I was just playing," Ogwumike said calmly.

Agler has seen how well Ogwumike has been playing lately, too, and is impressed.

"[Ogwumike] moves well without the ball," coach said. "She's athletic with great hands and can score around the rim. Now she's extended her range where she's stepping out and hitting jump shots.

"She's an elite player. She's as good as there is in the league."

Elena Delle Donne led the Sky with 15 points and six rebounds. Allie Quigley and Cheyenne Parker also finished in double figures for the Sky, ending with 13 and 10 points, respectively.

So while Wednesday's game wasn't a usual win for the Sparks, Parker said she liked how they pushed through and feels confident with where the Sparks are at.

"This was one of those games where we've been able to win in different ways all year, and one that you knew would be difficult beforehand," Parker said. "I like our team, and I like how we were able to focus."