Arlington, TX — It was an afternoon at College Park Center where two of the WNBA’s top scoring offenses went head to head. One, the defending champion, boasted the second best record in the league. The other sat in a make or break spot come the postseason - number seven of eight.
The Dallas Wings cut the Los Angeles Sparks’ four-game win streak, winning 85-79 on its home court.
Glory Johnson was first to move numbers on the board with a gorgeous three-pointer. She put on a shooting clinic from there. Johnson recorded her 10th double-double of the year with 23 points and 13 rebounds.
“Now we focus on the small things, share the ball a little bit more and focus heavy on defense,” said Johnson. “That’s what we’ve been doing, focusing heavy on our defense and it has created a lot of offense.”
But just as champions do, Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike kept up with 21 points a piece, and Los Angeles led after the first quarter of play. But only by three.
“I thought they came out really aggressive,” said Ogwumike. “In the beginning, we started off pretty well, but we were trading possessions for possessions.”
With just under five to go in the half, the Sparks led 34-30. Odyssey Sims made a sneaky steal for Los Angeles and drilled it down court on the breakaway, but it was Allisha Gray with a huge rejection that got the Dallas crowd stomping on their feet. Gray tied her season high in blocks with two and racked up six total rebounds.
“My shooting was off tonight so I just had to go to another part of my game, which is defense,” explained Gray. “When I turned the ball over, I knew I just had to get back and hustle back on defense because I couldn’t just put my head down and I chased after the turnover. I did have to sprint down, and I reached out and got the block.”
The Wings led by a single point with less than a minute. With all eyes on the Sparks offense, Johnson broke away from the pack and delivered two more. Dallas had the halftime edge 41-40.
Breathing a second wind in half number two, both squads banked shots back and forth through the third period. But the Wings held on for a six point lead heading into a crucial final quarter.
Each team bucketed 22 points in the fourth. Parker tied up a 67-67 ballgame with 5:47 left to keep the Sparks’ hopes alive. But Johnson led the Wings in a game-winning push with a fade-away shot, and it was so long Los Angeles from there.
“It was a back and forth battle,” said Dallas Head Coach Fred Williams. “I thought possession-wise, we took care of the basketball. We were able to finish.”
Karima Christmas-Kelly was at the hands of Johnson for a victory, finishing with 17 points for the Wings and five total boards. It was her second consecutive game she’s hit the double digit mark.
“When one person messes up, we have to have each other’s back, and I think that’s what we did a lot of the game,” Johnson elaborated on her teammates. “I got beat one time, and I think either AP or (Wings forward) Karima (Christmas) came and they got a foul, but they were there. They rotated and they had my back on defense. I think we are trying to help each other and we are trying to have each other’s back and show that this is a team.”
A 2016 WNBA Championship rematch is next up for Los Angeles and Minnesota on Aug. 11 at 5 pm PST. Dallas hosts Phoenix on Aug. 10 at 7 pm CT on ESPN 2.