Sparks lose second straight in close game against Sky

Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
Sky won the season series against the Sparks, 3-1.

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Sparks fell short after three chances for the win.

The Sparks came back from 9 down in the fourth quarter and had a chance to upend the Chicago Sky. But they couldn’t convert at the end. The Sky edged out the Sparks, 76-75. And the Sparks at 15-20 suddenly only hold a precarious half-game lead over the now-15-21 Chicago Sky.

In the first period, the Sparks were all about the thievery as they had five steals in the first quarter. Nneka Ogwumike, in particular, had three steals to go along with 10 points. Morgan Bertsch did make a three-pointer before the first quarter buzzer so the Sparks lead was down to 28-21 entering the second period.

The Sparks did lead by 10 early in the second before the Sky scored 6 straight points off lay-ups. Marina Mabrey then made a three before Kahleah Copper tied the game at 43 before the half with her own three-pointer.

The third quarter was a different story. The Sky took the lead and it got even bigger after a three by Azura Stevens was overturned. And then Dana Evans did this before the third quarter buzzer.

That put the Chicago Sky up, 64-56. Elizabeth Williams opened the fourth quarter to make it a double-digit lead for Chi-Town. The Sky were up, 72-63, with under four minutes to go. But as the Sparks do, they came back and scored 9 straight points. Kahleah Copper made a jumper to take the lead back but Karlie Samuelson made a three to counter. And then Copper did this:

Copper’s lay-up gave the Sky the lead. The Sparks had three shots at it… and none of them were good. The Chicago Sky won a huge game and were able to cut the Sparks lead down to a half-game.

It was a heartbreaker. One possession made a difference in the final score and we would be talking about the Sparks having a near-insurmountable lead had the Sparks converted in the last possession of the game. Still, that game isn’t won in a single possession; it’s a cumulative of things that led to this.

I asked Coach Miller about what had bothered him the most about the game.

As mentioned, the Sparks do hold a half-game lead over the Sky for the 8th and final playoff spot. The players were asked about how they still control their own destiny.

The Sky won the season series, 3-1, and that will make a huge difference when tiebreakers come into play.

“The (Sparks are) a really good team. They make things really difficult by taking you out of what you want to do. And then you have to maintain composure and try to find your mismatches out of the mess they make it,” said Sky guard Marina Mabrey about what she saw in the Sparks. “And then they’re just really aggressive defensively. They turn you over and they get out in transition. Nneka’s a hall-of-famer. That’s a problem. They’re a great team but we’re able to compose ourselves and keep that pressure away and attack.”

The Sky turned the ball over 11 times in the first half but were able to take care of the ball better in the second half with just four giveaways. The Sparks offense struggled in spells in the second half but they always fight back; they just fell short this time. L.A. was able to hold the Sky to 12 points in the fourth quarter but being down by double digits was just too much to overcome. Sometimes, the basketball gods aren’t on your side.

Nneka Ogwumike had her 101st career double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. She also had four steals. Jordin Canada had 16 points and 9 assists; she also had four thefts. As for the Sky, Kahleah Copper had a huge second half on her way to 22 points. Marina Mabrey had 14 points while Morgan Bertsch started in place of Alanna Smith and scored 12.

The Sparks draw the Seattle Storm on Thursday as they finish their run of 5 games in 9 nights. It’s their second-to-last home game and their actual last home game at Crypto Dot Com Arena. Every game is a must-win for the Sparks and they really have to make this next game count.