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‘Like the Golden State Warriors,’ Los Angeles is ‘hard to stop’

During the Los Angeles Sparks v. Dallas Wings’ last matchup on June 9, the Sparks dominated in the first quarter but fell short in the final three periods. The Wings closed the game 96-90. Tonight’s game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles told a different tale.

Sergio Hentschel - Getty Images

Los Angeles, CA — Looking to avenge its loss to the Dallas Wings, the Los Angeles Sparks came in full throttle in the first quarter Tuesday evening. The Sparks Nneka Ogwumike scored the first shot of the night. With five minutes and 40 seconds on the clock, the Wings forward Theresa Plaisance received a personal foul, and Head Coach Fred Williams, was hit with a technical foul.

Los Angeles’ Essence Carson took the free throw and added a point for her team, as the Sparks used momentum to gain a six-point advantage, 12-6.

At the four-minute mark, the intensity of the game remained high as the Sparks were hit with a controversial foul on Chelsea Gray that appeared to frustrate the players; however, they were able to put their emotions aside to finish the quarter strong.

Keeping the momentum, Odyssey Sims created a big spark for the home team as she stole the ball away from the Wings and raced down to the other end of the court to convert the play and push the lead even further, 23-8.

Candace Parker and Gray were leading the way for Los Angeles with five points apiece. Ogwumike once again opened up the scoring of the period, but this time off of an alley opp and scored the layup. Even though she scored first, the second stanza it seemed as if the Dallas players had finally woken up on offense.

Rookie Saniya Chong really started to get things going for the Wings as she came in and knocked down shots to be one of the top scores for her team with nine in the first half. With the energy of Chong, Dallas scored on four consecutive possessions and slowly started to chip away at Los Angeles’ lead.

In a blink of an eye, the Wings cut the deficit to under double digits thanks to a steal by Allisha Gray who then dished the ball to Glory Johnson for the layup. With momentum now on Dallas’ side, Kayla Thornton stepped up and drilled a triple to bring the score to within five points of the Sparks – the closest they had come since early in the game.

Refusing to relinquish their teams’ lead, Ogwumike and Gray responded for Los Angeles with baskets of their own to maintain the advantage over the Wings. By the end of the second, the two combined for 24 points and most importantly the Sparks still had the lead, 48-35.

“We were more sound at the point of attack, at the point of the ball screen, and I think that really set the tone,” said Ogwumike. “We did a lot better with our help side. We wanted to play the defense that we know, and we wanted to be proactive. I think we did a much better job with doing that today.

Los Angeles continued the momentum into the third and maintained their lead despite a debatable call on Alana Beard with only 32 seconds left in the quarter. Beard received a personal foul and a technical foul after disagreeing with a call. The crowd expressed their emotions while the Wings’ Johnson made one out of two free throws. Beard regained her composure and refocused to help the Sparks keep pushing away from Dallas.

While the home team was up 72-52 heading into the final period, the Sparks were ready for the unexpected. Last time Dallas and Los Angeles played the Wings were down heading into the fourth but came back and won – tonight they were fighting to do the same.

With four minutes left in the fourth, Dallas took the audience by surprise and quickly changed the score from 86-69 to 86-74, with the help from Skylar Diggins-Smith’s driving layup, Karima Christmas-Kelly’s three-point shot, and Johnson’s cutting layup. The Wings looked like they were back in the game -- until Los Angeles’ Gray put them back in their place with a pull-up jump shot.

Refusing to lay down, Diggins-Smith really stepped it up in the last minute of the game, after receiving a personal foul. The Dallas guard added eight points to the score within 27 seconds, but her 24 points were not enough for her team to win the game.

The Los Angeles Sparks avenged their previous loss to the Dallas Wings and took home the victory, 97-87.

“We scored 35 points in the fourth against LA the last time we played them and then also tonight, but they got well balance scoring with Ogwumike and Gray now really scoring out there, and Parker contributing the ball like she does,” head coach Fred Williams stated.

“That’s hard to stop. It’s almost like going against the Golden State Warriors… I felt like we got a little tired, which enabled LA to make a big play on us.”