Los Angeles, CA -- Candace Parker brought the spark for Los Angeles, as they remain undefeated after taking down the Phoenix Mercury, 77-71.
Kristi Toliver opened with two big possessions, hitting a wide open three-pointer, then connecting with Parker under the hoop for a turnaround hook shot. Parker had a quick six points after hitting a pull-up jumper.
Thriving off Parker's momentum, Alana Beard had a drive and kick to Essence Carson for a Sparks three-pointer, extending the lead 14-8.
Right out of a Mercury timeout, it was Brittney Griner with a quick two-point play before picking up her second personal foul. Off a Sparks' inbound, Nneka Ogwumike connected with Jantel Lavender under the hoop to pull the lead to 10 points with 2:53 left in the first.
"I thought we defended Kristi Toliver and Nneka very well, two key players for them," stated Mercury coach Sandy Brondello about defending in restricted areas.
The Mercury retaliated with back-to-back three-pointers by Penny Taylor and Diana Taurasi, trailing by four.
At the buzzer, Chelsea Gray finished the quarter with an aggressive two-pointer under the hoop; the Sparks lead 24-20 after the first.
Off a jump ball two minutes into the second quarter, Gray went full court for a Sparks' layup. Then, Ogwumike found Parker under the basket, for another two-point play, putting the Sparks up by seven with 6:40 left in the half.
Griner knocked down both free throws after being taken to the line when fouled by Ogwumike, trailing only by five. Next, Beard had a forceful layup followed by another Toliver three-pointer to keep the momentum going for Los Angeles.
But Ogwumike picked up her third personal foul after fouling Griner under the basket once again. Ogwumike would remain out the rest of the half.
"I just have to try and go hard one-on-one and when I get doubled, to find an open player better," commented Griner on her overall performance of, eight points and seven rebounds.
In the final minute of the second quarter, Taurasi found Taylor on the left side for a wide-open three-pointer, to trail 40-36 at the half.
The second half started with a precise pass from Beard to Parker for a two-pointer.
Then, the very next possession, Ogwumike found Parker for an open jump shot. Back-and-forth three-pointers dropped in the Staples Center. First, back-to-back threes for Taylor, followed by a Beard three-pointer.
Parker found Ogwumike on the other side of the court for a driving layup. Thriving off the energy, the Sparks forced another Phoenix turnover with an offensive foul on Taurasi. Off the inbound, Taurasi was given a technical with 5:42 remaining in the third.
Beard sunk an explosive three from the left side, extending the Sparks' lead to 54-45.
Phoenix attempted to set up the last shot of the quarter, but an offensive foul on Griner was called, making that her fourth. The Mercury trailed by seven to end the third quarter.
To open the fourth, Carson knocked down both free throws when taken to the line by Sonja Petrovic. Carson had 12 points for the night.
Candice Dupree was not giving up just yet, with two quick jumpers and steal to set up DeWanna Bonner, who was fouled by Gray. Bonner went one for two on the line, cutting the deficit to six.
"They are a challenge to defend and have multiple good players. They even have DeWanna Bonner coming off of the bench," stated Sparks' coach Brian Agler about Phoenix.
After a full Mercury timeout, Bonner brought the speed with a fast break layup, giving her 10 points. Ogwumike found Parker once again for a nice jump shot.
Dupree was taken to the line by Ogwumike with 3:56 left in the game, making both shots to trail 73-69. After the next possession, the Sparks needed to regroup calling a necessary full timeout.
"We were not able to play defensively the way we wanted to. We need to definitely not foul in the second or the fourth," commented Parker on the Sparks' defense.
Carson came out of the timeout with a strong drive to the basket, extending the Sparks' lead to six with 1:34 left.
Taurasi hit a jumper from the left side to trail by four with 17.1 left in the game, but it would not be enough. Taurasi finished the night with 15 points, seven rebounds, and two assists. For the Sparks, Parker finished the game with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists.
The Los Angeles Sparks are now tied for the WNBA-best start to a season, 11-0. The only other team to have begun the season at 11-0 is the Minnesota Lynx, whom they play Tuesday, June 21st at 12:30 pm.
"I look forward to playing Minnesota Tuesday to settle the score and see who is the best at this point," expressed Toliver on being tied with the Lynx.