Uncasville, CT -- The Los Angeles Sparks made timely baskets, while the Connecticut Sun committed what turned out to be costly turnovers, as the Sparks came back to snatch their 20th win on the season by beating the Sun in overtime, 98-92.
Los Angeles' 20-1 record ties the 1998 Houston Comets for the best start to a season in league history. The Sparks 20th win was anything but easy.
The Sparks took their first lead of the second half on a Nneka Ogwumike three-pointer from the wing with less than two minutes to go in regulation, and the lead would change hands a couple more times before the fourth quarter would end. Alyssa Thomas was the answer for the Sun repeatedly, as she continually attacked the basket, finishing twice in the paint to give Connecticut the lead back.
With less than a minute to go in regulation, Jantel Lavender responded with a mid-range jumper to give Los Angeles a one-point lead with 25 seconds left. Lavender had a game-high and career-high 25 points off the bench for the Sparks, and also grabbed 10 rebounds.
"I just came out aggressive," Lavender said. "My teammates were giving me the ball in my sweet spot, and it was open. Tonight was a good night."
Thomas got bumped while driving to the basket on the other end, and would split the crucial free throws leaving the game tied at 85 with 10 seconds left. Kristi Toliver missed a contested corner three as time expired sending the game to overtime. Tolliver finished with 24 points.
The back and forth scoring continued in the extra period, and it was the combination of Toliver, Lavender and Nneka Ogwumike who would lift Los Angeles to the record-tying win. Those three combined to score 71 of the Sparks 98 points, while Candace Parker was quiet all night, only scoring six points, but also contributed seven assists and five rebounds.
Thomas lead Connecticut in scoring with 17 points and 12 rebounds, as five Sun players reached double figures. Alex Bentley, who hit tough shot after tough shot, and Chiney Ogwumike, who was a force in the paint for Connecticut, each added 16 points.
"We want to battle every game, compete every game, and fight every game," Bentley said. "So to lose now, and earlier, has been tough for us. We just have to work on finishing out games, taking care of the ball and getting the stops we need down the stretch. I know that we are going to get better at that moving forward. We could've pulled this one out, so it's really frustrating."
The Sun were blistering hot shooting the ball in the first half, making 10 of their first 11 shots from the floor, including their first six to start the game. The Sparks also shot the ball extremely well in the first half, as both teams shot over 56 percent through the first 20 minutes. Parker failed to score in the first half.
The Sparks trailed by as many as 16 in the third quarter, before tightening up their defense and going on a big run that got them back in the game. Los Angeles would score 16 of the next 19 points to get the Sun lead down to just three.
"Today was eye-opening for us," Nneka Ogwumike said. "No one wants to be down by that much (in the third quarter). We didn't come out with the focus that we wanted to come out with, so hopefully that's the first and the last time that that happens. Good teams always find a way, but it didn't click in until the third quarter."
Connecticut could not find the same consistency from behind the arc in the second half that they had in the first. After shooting 7-for-14 from three before halftime, the Sun did not make a single three after the intermission, going 0-for-10 when they needed those shots to fall the most.