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Recap: Ariel Atkins, no-mercy D.C. defense lead Mystics over Sparks

The Washington Mystics spoiled Candace Parker’s return from a hamstring injury by blowing out the Los Angeles Sparks at Staples Center, 81-52. Second-year player Ariel Atkins scored a game-high 22 points.

LaToya Sanders (left) and Ariel Atkins (right) show Nneka Ogwumike and the Sparks no mercy as their Mystics make a win happen.
Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

The Washington Mystics (5-3) rolled into Los Angeles (4-4) and sullied Candace Parker’s return to the Sparks lineup. The 2016 WNBA champion had missed several games with a hamstring injury.

Prior to the game, Swish Appeal reported:

The Sparks’ success will be determined by how smoothly Candace Parker is reintegrated into the lineup ... In addition to returning from injury, she is returning to a team missing old faces (Essence Carson to Phoenix Mercury, Odyssey Sims to Minnesota Lynx) and featuring new ones (Chiney Ogwumike to Connecticut Sun).

Those adjustments did not materialize. In Parker’s first regular-season game of the season with the new-look Los Angeles lineup, she shot 11.1 percent from the field, 0-of-3 from beyond the arc and 1-of-2 from the charity stripe in 25 minutes — for 6 turnovers, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 points and 2 steals.

WNBA.com

Nneka Ogwumike and Sydney Wiese (off the bench) were the team-high scorers with 12 points apiece, with the rest of the squad held to single-digit scoring, including Chelsea Gray (8 points), Chiney Ogwumike (6 points), Riquana Williams (2 points off the bench) and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt (0 points).

Prior to the game, Swish Appeal also identified keys to a potential Mystics’ victory:

  • Overcome time-zone change and travel fatigue;
  • Get double-digit production out of more than two players (including Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Kristi Toliver); and
  • Battle harder on the boards (because the Mystics were out-rebounded 40-30 in their second contest)

Washington took those notes to heart. Four players scored in double figures: Ariel Atkins (game-high 22 points), Walker-Kimbrough (17 points off the bench), Kristi Toliver (12 points and 9 assists for an almost-double-double) and Tianna Hawkins (10 points off the bench).

WNBA.com

Elena Delle Donne scored 9 points and grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds.

The Sparks out-rebounded the Mystics, 38-36. But L.A.’s struggles on offense, including 26 turnovers (to the Mystics’ 17), and an inability to protect possessions doomed their efforts. Washington managed 20 steals (with 6 belonging to center LaToya Sanders) to the Sparks’ 9. The Sparks also struggled to move the ball, with the Mystics tallying 10 more assists

The Sparks never led and the game was never tied.


Up next

The Mystics take their talents into a Sin City battle against the Las Vegas Aces on Thursday, June 20, while the Sparks face the Seattle Storm on Friday, June 21, on on the road.