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LA’s Agler captures No. 300 behind Beard’s veteran expertise

In an ugly third quarter, Alana Beard’s steadiness gave the Sparks just enough momentum to notch their fourth win of the season.

WNBA: Los Angeles Sparks at Minnesota Lynx Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles, CA— A win is still a win, no matter how ugly it is.

The Los Angeles Sparks are undoubtedly happy that is the case, after their 79-70 win over the Chicago Sky on Tuesday night. The win was head coach Brian Agler’s 300th for his career.

Nneka Ogwumike led the Sparks with a double-double performance of 20 points and 11 rebounds. Alana Beard had 18 points, while Candace Parker added 12 and five rebounds. Courtney Vandersloot was the offensive leader for Chicago with 13 points.

The game was rather uncharacteristic for Los Angeles, and was defined by the play of Ogwumike and Parker in the first half and Beard in the second.

Coming into Tuesday, the Sparks were the second best shooting team in the league, with a team field goal percentage of 47.1. In the first half, however, they were shooting just 13-of-32 from the field.

They ended the night shooting 34.4 percent on 22-of-64 shooting. The Sky actually outshot them in the loss, going 27-of-65 from the field. Chicago also dominated LA in the paint, scoring 40 points down low compared to the Sparks’ 24.

“When you don’t shoot well from the field, it makes it look like you’re playing ugly,” Agler said.

“Defensively, I felt like we are making some improvements. We’re moving in the right way. I like that part of it, we just have to be more fluid offensively.”

While the Sky’s bench was dominating the Sparks bench, 18-5, the play of Ogwumike and Parker gave Los Angeles their edge in the first half.

Ogwumike ended the half with 15 points and three rebounds, while Parker contributed eight points and three rebounds. The highest-scoring player at the time for Chicago was Vandersloot with just six points.

The third quarter got even stranger for the Sparks, however. Despite having a six-point lead at halftime, they seemingly came out with low energy in the third quarter, only scoring 15 points to Chicago’s 18.

Parker and Ogwumike each struggled to get any momentum going on the offensive end. While the Sparks ended the third quarter up three, it was still their worst quarter of offensive play in the 2017 season.

On top of the Sparks’ offensive woes, with about three minutes to go in the quarter, the game clock at the Staples Center displayed the wrong time.

The issue took several minutes to get resolved, effectively killing the game flow for both teams.

Despite the inconsistencies and technical difficulties, Beard arguably kept Los Angeles in the game when it seemed as if it had the potential to fall of the rails.

Beard had six points at halftime, and scored six more in the third quarter, while Parker and Ogwumike each only had two.

As a result of Beard salvaging what little momentum she could, the Sparks were able to come out in the fourth quarter and go on a 6-0 run in the opening minutes.

Ultimately, the Sky would get close at various points throughout the second half, and even tied the game in the third quarter, but could never manufacture a large enough run to wrestle the lead away from the Sparks.

In the second half, Beard went 5-of-6 from the field, so it’s hard to imagine what Los Angeles’ shooting performance would have looked like without her.

“She is the motor. She sets the tone and is a great leader. She played fantastic on both ends the floor tonight,” Agler said when asked about Beard’s performance.

“Eighteen points, shot the ball well and made some huge defensive plays. I am really proud of her efforts.”

And in moments where Parker and Ogwumike struggle offensively for the Sparks, its good for them to know just how reliable Beard can be.