Sparks score upset against two-time defending champion Aces

Jordon Kelly-The Sporting Tribune
The Sparks upset the Aces and win their second straight game in a loud Crypto.com Arena crowd.

LOS ANGELES — The Sparks suddenly have it going.

In front of nearly 14,000 people in Crypto.com Arena, the Los Angeles Sparks defeat the Las Vegas Aces, 96-92, in an emotional roller coaster of a contest.

The Aces were already down Chelsea Gray and Jackie Young. But it didn’t seem to matter early when they put the Sparks in a 14-0 hole.

Still, Coach Curt Miller emphasized crashing the glass and the Sparks did that by limiting the Aces on the offensive boards. L.A. won the overall rebounding battle, 36-23, and the offensive glass, 8-4. Las Vegas being limited to one shot helped Los Angeles get back and then ahead in the game.

The turnovers kept the Aces in it as the Sparks ended up having 15 (compared to six by the Aces). But the Sparks made timely shots in the fourth. Rae Burrell, in particular, came into the game for the first time halfway through the fourth and promptly made back-to-back threes to give the Sparks an 86-82 advantage.

Rickea Jackson would score seven of her 16 points in the clutch. Late in the game, Aces coach Becky Hammon would get ejected after picking up her second technical foul. From there, Aari McDonald made two free throws to take the Sparks home and get the W.

Miller talked about the rebounding battle after the game:

“We had a 20-6 advantage in second chance points,” Miller summarized. “We held them to four offensive rebounds. There were chess matches going on in the game. (Cameron Brink)’s rim protection bothers teams so what they do is try to play smaller ball and move Cam around more on the perimeter and try to stretch her out.

“But when you go small, can we do a better job and really clean up the glass? And when they’re spreading us out more, maybe not have as many people in the paint going for offensive rebounds.”

Dearica Hamby and Aari McDonald talked about Rae Burrell staying ready:

“You just gotta have that mentality when your number is called,” McDonald said. “You gotta step up, you gotta deliver. And that’s hard to not play all game and come in but kudos to Rae and shoutout to Coach for believing in her.”

“Also to add on to that: Rae’s been busting her ass in practice,” Hamby said, which got a chuckle out of her daughter, Amaya, and laughter out of the media.

“It’s hard when you put in the work, you don’t feel like you’re being rewarded,” Hamby added. “She just stayed ready and kept confidence in herself. You can see it in the way she shot the ball.”

The Sparks were led by Hamby with 18 points and 10 boards, which would give her nine double-doubles in 11 games. Rickea Jackson and Aari McDonald both scored 16 points each. 10 Sparks players scored six or more points in the game. On the defensive end, Cameron Brink blocked five more shots against the Aces.

As for the Aces, they were led by A’ja Wilson with 31 points while Kelsey Plum put in 24. Tiffany Hayes scored 17 while Kate Martin in her first start got 13 points.

The Sparks have now won two in a row but they will face an arduous task as they will play their next seven games on the road and won’t play a home game for the rest of the month. The team hopes to continue their momentum even if they’re away from Crypto.Com Arena.

The Sporting Tribune’s Fredo Cervantes contributed to this report.