Neither team could get away from each other. The game had 20 lead changes and 13 ties. Game even went into an extra session. But in the end, it was the Los Angeles Sparks that were victorious over the Phoenix Mercury, 99-93.
Sparks were physical early as they got off to a 6-0 lead. But the Mercury were able to settle down and get close with the help of Michaela Onyenwere and Sophia Cunningham. Meg Gustafson and Shey Peddy, who made their season debuts for the Mercury, made free throws to cut the deficit down to 22-20 before the first period ended.
Lexie Brown got hot in the first half as she made her first five shots. Our favorite rookie, Zia Cooke, made two quick three-pointers to give L.A. a 42-36 lead. But two consecutive lay-ups by Cunningham put the Mercury in a deadlock with the Sparks by halftime at 44.
Nneka Ogwumike went to work in the third quarter as she pounded it inside and got to the free throw line. She scored 11 points in that big third but Phoenix was able to wrest the lead away entering the fourth quarter, 67-65.
It was a back and forth affair for the rest of regulation. Diana Taurasi made a huge three in the corner. Lexie Brown countered with a lay-up. After Diana made a pull-up J, Jordin Canada made a huge three to tie it. Brittney Griner would make two clutch foul shots but Lexie snuck in for another lay-up to make it an 86-86 game. Sug Sutton would miss a three and the game would go into overtime.
Taurasi continued to stay hot as she made another three. Nneka Ogwumike would punch back with a lay-up to make it a 92-91 game. Lexie Brown would boost the lead to four with a clutch three.
Then Jordin Canada pretty much sealed the deal with this steal.
With the win, the Sparks get back to .500. Both of their wins have been against the Mercury.
Phoenix has been susceptible to turning the ball over (averaged 20.0 coming into the game). It’s just perfect for the Sparks, who have a harassing defense that leads the league in forced turnovers at 17.7 coming into Friday. Phoenix committed 20 more giveaways in this game.
Brittney Griner has been remarkable this season. She’s unstoppable yet again and it’s as if she hasn’t missed any time. Diana Taurasi can still fill it up with the best. Sophie Cunningham is fiery as we all know and Sug Sutton has been a very nice surprise for the Mercury.
But the Sparks continue to make great rotations on defense. Nneka Ogwumike is still a top tier player. Jordin Canada is a spirited point guard that can get it done on both ends. Lexie Brown continues to prove that she’s more than a three-point shooter. And they have such good bench stability with Dearica Hamby, Karlie Samuelson, and Zia Cooke providing some firepower.
Lexie Brown tied her career-best with 26 points. That three-pointer in overtime was huge. Nneka Ogwumike went for 21-12-6; she had 11 huge points in the third. Jordin Canada had 16 points, 5 assists, and three steals.
As for Phoenix, Brittney Griner went for 24 points and 11 boards (also had three assists, two blocks, and two steals!). Sophie Cunningham and Diana Taurasi each put in 19 points. They shot well (.525) but those 20 turnovers are haunting.
No rest for the weary Sparks as they take on the Seattle Storm at Crypto Dot Com Arena on Saturday night. The rare back-to-back in the WNBA for these Sparks. Hope they have enough energy tomorrow.