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Weekend Recap: A triple-double from Chelsea Gray leads Sparks over first-place Mystics

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Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Minnesota solidified their spots in the standings with wins. Phoenix and Dallas claimed much-needed victories.

Washington Mystics v Los Angeles Sparks
Chelsea Gray tosses one of her 13 assists on her way to a triple-double in the Sparks win over the Mystics.
Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images

More than the floor in Las Vegas shifted in the WNBA this weekend. While the action on Saturday and Sunday did not totally shake up the standings, some cracks and crevices possibly emerged.

In Los Angeles, the Sparks secured their 450th win in franchise history with a victory over the Mystics, 98-81. L.A.’s cause was aided by the absence of Elena Delle Donne, who left the game with a facial injury in the first minute. But the Sparks were not the mere beneficiaries of the Mystics’ misfortune; they instead demonstrated the dangerous team that they can be.

The Sparks sunk a season-high 16 three-pointers on a season-high 31 attempts, good for a scorching 51.3 percent. Nneka Ogwumike deserves much credit for this mark. Throughout the Sparks’ early-season offensive inconsistencies, Ogwumike expressed her willingness to serve as a floor spacer. Her performance on Sunday showed why. The elder Ogwumike netted five threes on her way to 31 points. Riquna Williams also drained five threes, while Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Chelsea Gray and Sydney Wiese each made a pair.

Such shooting is, of course, unsustainable.

Nevertheless, the willingness to take threes provides needed floor spacing for an offense that oftentimes has become clogged. Chelsea Gray’s game testifies to the opportunities made possible by this spacing. Against the Mystics, she notched a triple-double of 13 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds, resulting in a team-best plus-minus of 26.

For D.C., Sunday underscored the already well-appreciated importance of Delle Donne. Her early exit possibly enhanced her MVP case, as the league’s best offense stalled without its superstar. Without Delle Donne attracting the attention that makes the game easier for her teammates, the Mystics struggled to put the ball in the basket, especially from downtown. While the Sparks were on fire from deep, the Mystics shot a pitiful 26.1 percent from distance.

One positive from Delle Donne’s absence was the performance from Aerial Powers. She took advantage of the extra playing time, scoring 24 points on 70 percent shooting.

Here’s the rundown of the weekend’s other games:

Saturday’s scores

Minnesota Lynx 74, Connecticut Sun 71

The Sun’s slide continued as a double-double from Sylvia Fowles helped the Lynx claim the three-point win in Uncasville.

Sunday’s scores

Las Vegas Aces 90, New York Liberty 58

After a shaky Friday night, the Aces more than steadied themselves on Sunday. Kayla McBride dropped 24 points, including going five of seven from deep, to lead the Aces to a dominating victory.

Phoenix Mercury 65, Atlanta Dream 63

In an often ugly game, Brittney Griner got enough buckets and boards to allow the Mercury to sneak past the Dream. Griner scored a season-high 31 points, along with grabbing 12 rebounds. She also recorded her 600th career block in the game.

Chicago Sky 78, Dallas Wings 66

A 20-and-10 double-double from Jantel Lavender, in addition to 16 points off the bench from Kahleah Copper, pushed the Sky past the Wings.

Where things stand

Despite the loss, the Mystics maintain the top spot in the standings, while the Sun still cling to second. Connecticut’s four-game losing streak, in combination with a three-game winning streak for the Aces, has both squads sitting at 9-5. The Lynx sit in fourth place at 8-6, with the Sparks just behind them at 7-6. Wins allowed both the Sky and Mercury to get back to .500, with the 7-7 Sky in sixth and the 6-6 Mercury in eighth.

Next up

Phoenix is the team to watch this week, as the 2014 champions depart on a tough three-game road trip that hopefully will include the debut of Diana Taurasi. On Wednesday, Phoenix takes on the Mystics in a matinee matchup before facing the Sun on Friday night in Connecticut. On Sunday, they’ll complete their trek in Minnesota against the Lynx.

The week’s most anticipated matchup, however, may occur on Saturday when the Mystics and Aces go at it again, with the results of their prior meeting incomplete due to that matchup being suspended at halftime because of earthquake activity. Overall, a five-game Wednesday, four-game Friday and five-game Sunday present plenty intriguing action.

Stay tuned for previews!