LOS ANGELES — The Atlanta Dream have been a nightmare for the Sparks this season. But on Saturday night, it was a different story. The Sparks had a huge third quarter and went on to defeat the Dream for the first time this year, 84-73.
Rhyne Howard seemed to remember how much she torched the Sparks earlier this season. She opened the game with a couple of three-pointers. The Dream built a double-digit lead before the Sparks, helped by back-to-back three-pointers, scored 8 unanswered points. Atlanta still led after one but by a close margin, 24-22. Notably, the Dream took 12 free throws and made all of them.
In the second quarter, we saw Cheyenne Parker go to work. She was beating Sparks defenders with drives and cuts to the rim. Parker started off that 9-0 run that gave Atlanta an 11-point advantage. The Sparks were able to whittle down the deficit to 45-38 by halftime, though.
The Sparks came out like a house of fire in the third. A Karlie Samuelson three gave the Sparks their first lead of the game. Going back into the second quarter, they went on a 15-2 run. The Sparks kept packing the point on defense and the Dream couldn’t figure it out then. Overall, the Sparks outscored the Dream in the third, 24-11, and took a 62-56 lead.
Jordin Canada started off the fourth with two steals and two lay-ups (plus a free throw!). From then on, the Sparks were able to keep the Dream at bay. Aari McDonald did have a huge fourth quarter. But a huge Canada three put the Sparks up by double digits and Los Angeles went on to win their third straight for the first time this season.
As evidenced in the third, the Sparks really turned up the defensive intensity. They were able to limit the Dream’s all-stars, which was quite the opposite from the first two games. I asked Head Coach Curt Miller about that:
Miller talked about his 151st career win as WNBA coach as the biggest win for the Sparks’ season.
And then I asked Layshia Clarendon, who scored double digits for the second straight game, about her increased scoring.
There’s nothing mindblowing in the overall team stats but just seeing the Sparks get more physical against the Dream was the difference. They actually did shoot more free throws than Atlanta (28-24) which isn’t too surprising but it did show the Sparks just taking it to the Dream in terms of the physicality of the game.
Four Sparks players were in double figures: Canada scored 11 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter, Nneka Ogwumike went for 17, Layshia Clarendon scored 16, and Azura Stevens went for 15. As for the Dream, they were led by Rhyne Howard and Cheyenne Parker with 17 each. Aari McDonald scored 11 of her 15 in the fourth. Allisha Gray was limited to 6 shots and 8 total points.
The Sparks have an entire week off and they need all the rest that they can get. When they’re back in action, they take on the mighty defending champions Las Vegas Aces.
But for now, that’s three Ws in a row for the Sparks. Feels like a nice breeze in these hot summer days.