Los Angeles, CA — The 2016 WNBA Semifinals are back and with a new playoff format, that features the top teams regardless of conference affiliation. Hence, overall records do matter for playoff position.
The Los Angeles Sparks hit the court with fresh legs after a two-week break, which was much needed considering a few hiccups, going 5-5 after the Olympic break. The Sparks (27-8) blazed past the Chicago Sky (18-17) in Game 1 of the best-of-five playoff Semifinals series at Walter Pyramid in Long Beach State.
From tipoff, the Sparks proved why they are ranked first in assists in the WNBA. Their ball movement was nearly flawless, and passes were precise, but Chicago scored eight points off of seven forced turnovers. Los Angeles has struggled with turnovers since the Olympic break, which ultimately led to their two-point lead, 22-20, after the first quarter.
Los Angeles’ dynamic duo of Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker scored a total of 32 points, eight rebounds, and five assists in the first quarter. This twosome outworked their opponents with their quick feet, which negated the height of Sky’s defense.
The 2016 WNBA MVP used her explosiveness in the paint, putting constant pressure on Sky’s defense, as they struggled to keep Ogwumike and Parker’s numbers down.
The battle between the two teams remained close in the first, but Los Angeles extended their lead by halftime due to impressive defense, outscoring Chicago 30 to 15, ending the first half 52- 35.
An “MVP” chant broke out in the third quarter, as Ogwumike went right to the rim on three defenders. Ogwumike and Parker’s chemistry accounted for nearly three-fourths of Los Angeles points, as both tallied 25 points by the end of the third, which gave Los Angeles a 14 point cushion, 75-61, heading into the final quarter.
Chicago’s Courtney Vandersloot and Jessica Breland stepped up during the Sky’s 108-98 win over the Atlanta Dream this past Sunday (even with the 2015 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne on the bench due to a right thumb injury), but they failed to get the ball into the net Wednesday night, scoring a combined 14-points.
Chicago’s Cappie Pondexter and Tamera Young added a combined for 23 points, while Jamierra Faulkner came off the bench and netted 13-points.
But ultimately, Ogwumike and Parker ran tonight’s offense and defense. Parker ended with 30 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Ogwumike contributed 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. The duo worked in unison, while using their chemistry to outhustle the Sky’s defense.
The Los Angeles Sparks swept the series against the Chicago Sky all season, winning every game at home and on the road during the regular season, but will they continue their winning streak against Sky during the 2016 WNBA Semifinals? Tune into Game 2 this Friday at 7 p.m. PT.