The Sparks put up a fight in the second half after being down by 20 but, in the end, it was Minnesota that closed it out to snap their own losing streak, 73-70.
The first quarter was close like it was the old rivalry again. Nneka Ogwumike caught fire, scoring 13 points in the first 10 minutes. The City of Angels led after the first period, 19-18.
But then it was all Minnesota in the second quarter. Dorka Juhasz led a huge 24-3 run against L.A. and it looked like it was going to be curtains early for the Sparks. Juhasz finished the half with a perfect 6-for-6 as a dominant second period put Minnesota ahead at halftime, 46-29.
It looked more of the same early in the third quarter but then the waterbug guards of the Sparks rallied back. Two returning guards, Layshia Clarendon and Lexie Brown, joined Jordin Canada and Rae Burrell (still on a hardship contract) in an incredible 18-2 stampede as the Sparks cut the deficit down to 57-55 by the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter saw the Sparks reel off 9 in a row; they took a 68-61 lead. And then Napheesa Collier, as she always did against L.A., played big and scored 6 straight. Free throws and another Collier shot boosted it into a 12-0 run by the Lynx. Jordin Canada did cut the deficit to 73-70. After a failed possession by Minnesota, the Sparks had a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime but Nneka Ogwumike’s three rimmed out. Minnesota snapped their losing skid at three games while L.A.’s continued; they have now lost 7 straight.
I think the most important thing here is that the Sparks got healthier and instantly looked like a different team (though it took some adjustments later) with Lexie Brown and Layshia Clarendon back. Just the way Lexie, Layshia, and Rae Burrell spread the floor gave the Sparks so many options. And no matter who’s on the floor, the Sparks always give it a fight. They were down 20 at one point and nearly sent the game to overtime.
But goodness, Napheesa Collier has really taken it to another level. She’s just been nearly unstoppable at times with her increasing versatility on offense. And she did it again as the Lynx made it a season series sweep against the Sparks.
Nneka Ogwumike led L.A. with 19 points and 9 rebounds. Lexie Brown’s first game back saw her go 3 for 6 from three on her way to 13 points. Jordin Canada had 12 while Layshia on their first game back scored 11.
Napheesa Collier scored 22 points to lead Minnesota. Dorka Juhasz scored 16 points (14 in the first half) while Diamond Miller had a sensational all-around game that saw her get close to a triple-double (13-8-9). Kayla McBride went scoreless in 7 shots but played hellish defense against the Sparks.
Curt Miller likes to say that while there are no moral victories, he has to be pleased with the fight that the Sparks put up. They get another chance to snap the losing streak as they face the Wings in Dallas on Saturday. Hopefully, that will be the day the Sparks get a win.