Los Angeles extended their winning streak to five games, beating Phoenix 91-62 in a home game, held not at Crypto.com Arena but at the Galen Center at USC.
Things started and ended with Azurá Stevens for LA. The UConn alum started red hot from the field, hitting her first five field goal attempts and ending the night with 20 points.
Phoenix got a productive game from Sophie Cunningham, who led the team with 16 points, but not much from anyone else. The Mercury went 24-for-59 from the field, which is just over 40 percent, while L.A. shot 54 percent overall and an even better 58.8 percent from beyond the arc.
The Sparks were in control from the opening jump, getting out to a 30-15 lead after the opening frame. Stevens drove the Sparks’ offense, with the Mercury bigs unable find a defensive strategy to slow down or disturb her flow. By the end of the first half, she had 14 points.
In the first half and throughout the game, simply hitting shots was an issue for Phoenix. They got plenty of good looks; they just failed to convert them. And many Mercury possessions ended after just one missed shot attempt, as 22 of the Sparks’ 30 rebounds were defensive.
In the second half, LA slammed the door shut on any hopes Phoenix had of winning the game with a 21-14 third quarter. A lot of the damage was done by Jordin Canada, who had three assists and scored five points in the period, including a razzle-dazzle 3-pointer that drew some oohs and aahhs from the USC crowd.
Up by 21 heading into the final frame, it would take an epic collapse from LA to lose the game. It didn’t happen, as Los Angeles still outscored Phoenix in the fourth. After Jasmine Thomas threw up a 14-foot runner with the shot clock winding down and banked it in, the Sparks’ advantage extended to 26, and there was nothing left to do but run out the clock.
It’s just not Phoenix’s year. They’ve had a coaching change. A star in Skylar Diggins-Smith remains away from the team. Brittney Griner has missed time due to personal reasons and health and safety protocols. It’s just too much to overcome. At 9-24, tied for the worst record in the league, all that’s left to anticipate is official elimination from playoff contention.
For LA, things haven’t looked this good since the first month of the season. Head coach Curt Miller has found a starting five that works, as the roster has stayed consistent during this streak. The Sparks find themselves in sole possession of the eighth playoff spot and in complete control of their postseason destiny.
We’ll see if LA can extend the streak to six when they face Atlanta on the road on Friday. The Mercury will play Dallas on Sunday, aiming to end their four-game losing streak.