Sparks fall short against defending champion Aces

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Sparks fall to 1-1 after losing, 94-85, to the defending champion Aces.

LOS ANGELES — Before the game, head coach Curt Miller implored his team to fight. We found out that Nneka Ogwumike was going to be out due to a non-COVID illness.

And fight the Sparks did. Unfortunately, the Las Vegas Aces were too much in the second half as they overwhelmed the Sparks, 94-85.

The first half was very impressive for the Sparks. Lexie Brown got going in the perimeter, making her first five shots. Dearica Hamby was aggressively going to the basket (more on her later). The Aces were frustrated as the Sparks defense, SPARKS DEFENSE, forced 10 turnovers in the first 20 minutes. Right before the closing minutes of the first half, the Aces’ defense started to force the Sparks into some bad shots. But Chiney Ogwumike and Karlie Samuelson came back to lead an 8-0 run for Los Angeles as they boosted the lead back to 46-36 by the half.

In the third quarter, the Aces made yet another run. This time, they were successful on wresting the lead away as the MVP A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young took over. Dearica Hamby got in foul trouble. On the Sparks’ side, they kept finding Chiney Ogwumike on the cuts. Still, the Aces were hard to stop. After three, Las Vegas led, 67-63.

In the fourth quarter, Jackie Young pretty much took over. She kept the Sparks at bay with her three-point shooting. Sure, L.A. would counter every time but, this time around, it would be the Aces that would hold their ground. Jackie was too much for the Sparks and L.A. is now 1-1.

After the game, coach Miller was very proud of how they came out of the game, despite the loss.

Then Chiney Ogwumike talked about her chemistry and then raved about how much of a superwoman she is. After all, Dearica just gave birth a couple of months ago and she’s playing at a high level. That’s just incredible.

Jackie Young was amazing. She led the champs with 30 points and four steals. A’ja Wilson lived at the line (11/13 FT) and ended with 19 points and 13 boards. Ex-Sparks Chelsea Gray (16 points, 8 assists) and Candace Parker (10 points, 8 boards) finished with double digits.

As for the Sparks, Chiney Ogwumike led with 19 points. Lexie Brown had a hot first half on the way to 15 points. It would’ve helped to have Nneka play but either way, a tough but gutty effort by the Sparks. They forced 20 turnovers against the Aces. That’s impressive no matter what situation.

And they’re going to see the champs again on Saturday. This time around, the site will shift to Las Vegas. What a tough opening two weeks the Sparks have.

The Sporting Tribune’s Laurie Smith contributed to this report.