WASHINGTON, DC-- Two of the league’s top four teams met in the nation’s capital on Wednesday night, and the game did not disappoint.
The No. 2 Los Angeles Sparks proved they are on another level, topping the No. 4 Washington Mystics, 95-62. The loss was the worst one for the Mystics this season and the largest margin of victory for Los Angeles.
The Sparks had a stellar shooting night from the floor, shooting 40-of-65 from the field for an astounding 61.5 percent.
Los Angeles was incredibly efficient on the offensive end, led by none other than Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike.
Parker shot 9-of-13 from the field, and ended the night with a game-high 21 points, seven rebounds, and two assists. Ogwumike really began catching fire in the second half, and ended the night with 18 points and four rebounds. Ten of her points came in the third quarter alone.
"I thought we shared the ball really well,” Sparks head coach Brian Agler said.
“Nneka and Candace were both really active with and without the basketball. Our guards were making good decisions. We forced some turnovers with our defense. Those things, to me, helped us play the way we did."
From the opening tip, it was clear that Parker was determined to take over. She ended the first half with 14 points, 12 of which came in the first quarter. Her efforts gave the Sparks a 22-11 advantage with under three minutes to go in the first.
The Mystics were prepared to answer with defense, and held the Sparks scoreless for the remainder of the quarter, closing the gap to just four points.
In the second frame though, the Sparks began to feed off of Parker’s energy on both ends of the floor. Their swarming perimeter defense improved, and others stepped up scoring-wise for Los Angeles.
Odyssey Sims exploded for nine points, and had four steals by the halftime break. She was not to be outdone by Ogwumike, who ended the half with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting.
After halftime, Washington was unable to adjust to slow down Los Angeles’ offense. Ogwumike showed no signs of changing her pace, scoring 10 points in the third quarter alone. As a result of 10-of-14 shooting from the field in the stanza, the Sparks went into the last 10 minutes with a 22-point lead, 51-37.
“I think we just have so many different weapons and so much athleticism on the floor,” Parker said. “And so many people who are able to spread the floor, and you know when you have that the team isn’t set defensively and we’re able to kind of take advantage of that.”
The deficit would prove to be too much to overcome for Washington, who is still playing without about 40 percent of their offense in the form of Elena Delle Donne.
Wednesday’s game in Washington is a perfect example of how important and lethal Candace Parker can be. While her scoring somewhat slowed down in the second half, her early offensive work clearly fed her teammates and set the tone early on.
As a result, other members of the Sparks were able to feed off of Parker’s energy as they stifled the Mystics using tough perimeter defense and their offensive system.
“I think just defensively making sure we’re all on the same page, but offensively moving the ball– it’s going to find the right play and when we do that we’re at our best,” Parker said
When we are this close to playoffs every single game matters. It was clear on Wednesday that the Sparks are perfectly aware of that fact.
While the game itself was incredibly entertaining, the pregame took a more sobering tone.
As the national anthem played, members of both teams linked arms and stood side-by-side together in a remarkable show of unity.
Both teams wanted to pay tribute to those who lost their lives following a clash between white nationalist groups and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Va.
Kristi Toliver, who grew up outside of Charlottesville, led the Mystics and Sparks in their display. Prior to the beginning of the game, both teams issued a joint statement.
“It is not a surprise that racism and bigotry exist in this country, but it is not something we stand for in any way,” the statement read in part.
“We feel great shock, sickness, and sadness with the degree of acceptance and normalization of this hatred, culminating in ways in the events in Charlottesville this past weekend.”
Following the display of unity, WNBA President Lisa Borders issued a statement of her own, supporting the teams.
“We fully support our players, who are offering a demonstration of unity that we hope America can emulate in the wake of the tragic events in Charlottesville,” she said.
“We offer our sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones and our support to those who were injured during the inexcusable violence that transpired.”
There's A LOT to talk about from the #Mystics-#Sparks game tonight! #WNBA #sports #Charlottesville #TeamUnityPosted by Swish Appeal on Wednesday, August 16, 2017