LOS ANGELES — After what felt like a debilitating 8-game losing streak, the Los Angeles Sparks won their second straight game against the Indiana Fever to get to 9-15 for the season. The Sparks took control in the second half and won comfortably, 81-68.
The Fever started out aggressively with Aliyah Boston and Kelsey Mitchell getting the first few shots. And per usual, Nneka Ogwumike got off to a great beginning. Jordin Canada picked up where she left off as her lay-up beat the first quarter buzzer to make it 22-18 in favor of L.A.
Boston continued to find holes in the Sparks defense and eclipsed her output from Tuesday’s game in the second quarter. Kristy Wallace came off the bench for Indy to shoot the lights out. But the Sparks got an energized Jasmine Thomas off the bench. Nneka continued to produce. Her lay-up beat the horn (the Sparks’ third straight quarter where they beat the buzzer) and the Sparks built a slightly larger cushion going into the half, 45-39.
From there, the Sparks built a double-digit lead and never looked back. The defensive intensity was turned up after halftime. Nneka Ogwumike kept getting buckets and Jordin Canada continued her outstanding play from Tuesday. The Fever didn’t get the much-needed production from their stars and the Sparks didn’t need to go down the wire as they won going away.
Coach Curt Miller didn’t deviate too much from Tuesday’s game plan. He said they were going to continue to contain Aliyah Boston and have the ‘supporting cast’ beat them. And it worked. They did a great job throwing everything at Boston (not literally; that would hurt) and holding down Kelsey Mitchell. Both stars combined to make only two points in the second half. It was especially impressive after Boston had more points in the first half (10) than the entire game on Tuesday (9).
The aggressiveness by the Sparks was evident in this game. The Sparks had a huge free throw advantage as they attempted 23 compared to the Fever’s three. L.A. also had a 10-point advantage in the paint and we saw how Nneka Ogwumike and Jordin Canada got into the paint quite frequently. With Boston and Mitchell held in check (and for that matter, Victoria Vivians, who only scored five on Thursday afternoon compared to 17 on Tuesday), they could barely get anything going outside of Erica Wheeler (who was decidedly shooting it more on Thursday) and the early hot shooting of Kristy Wallace off the pine.
Nneka Ogwumike scored 25 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Jordin Canada had another outstanding game with 21 points and 7 dimes. The Fever were led by the aforementioned ex-Spark Erica Wheeler with 17 while Wallace scored 13. Aliyah Boston ended with 12 points.
Also, a shoutout to Jasmine Thomas, who scored 8 points. She looked as energetic as we have seen her all season and she made some impressive athletic lay-ups that looked like the Jasmine we saw in past years with Connecticut.
After the game, Nneka was asked if she was trying to send a message after these performances by the Fever. She responded with, “…that I’m healthy.”
If Nneka and the Sparks get healthier, we might have something to watch out for.