LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Sparks really needed this one.
It was yet another grind but the Sparks came out on top after both teams defended the hell out of each other. The Sparks limited the Mystics to 12 points in the fourth quarter and beat them, 72-64. It was a huge game, too, as Chicago lost earlier in the day to the New York Liberty. The Sparks now lead the Sky by a game and hold the 8th playoff spot once again.
What was also remarkable that Nneka Ogwumike was a late scratch from the game due to a knee injury. But Layshia Clarendon was back from health and safety protocols and had an excellent game.
The Sparks were playing the passing lanes a lot early and the Mystics were throwing the ball away quite a bit. But when the Mystics weren’t turning it over, they were making their shots. The Mystics led after the first, 21-19.
Back-to-back threes by Zia Cooke and Karlie Samuelson gave Los Angeles a 27-21 lead. But the Mystics quickly erased that deficit. We went back and forth for a bit before the Sparks ended the half with four straight foul shots and the lead, 38-34.
The Sparks tried to break away as the Mystics went through with a bit of a drought. But Washington got going late in the third period as they scored 7 straight to end the quarter. Elena Delle Donne, who had struggled up to that point, made a jumper to give Washington a 52-51 lead going into the fourth.
In the fourth quarter, the Sparks broke away a bit with two three-point plays the old-school way (one from Karlie Samuelson and one from Layshia Clarendon) to give themselves a 63-58 lead. After that, the Sparks were able to keep the Mystics at bay. Jordin Canada made a clutch lay-up as well as some huge free throws. The Sparks have stopped their three-game skid and what a timely victory it was.
The Mystics struggled on the court. But Kristi Toliver also went down with a knee injury and that was a huge mental hurdle to go through. We hope Kristi recovers sooner than later.
As for the Sparks, head coach Curt Miller talked about how they were able to keep Elena Delle Donne in check.
Dearica Hamby, who started in place of Nneka, was asked what it would mean to her to make the postseason.
It was not a pretty game (like the previous one against Seattle). But they took the physicality to Washington. The stat that really stood out was that the Sparks took 24 free throws compared to the Mystics’ 7. Other than that, it was the Sparks getting it done in the fourth quarter once again. As mentioned earlier, Washington was limited to 12 points in the final stanza.
Layshia Clarendon led the Sparks with 15 points, 5 rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Jordin Canada came on late to score 14. Dearica Hamby went for a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards. In the meantime, ex-Spark Brittney Sykes had 14 points for the Mystics. Their all-world player Elena Delle Donne was limited to 8 points (4 for 14 shooting).
All the home games are done for the Sparks. They will finish out the regular season on the road for the next three games. They have Connecticut on Tuesday (there’s a chance they might sit out their players). They go to New York on Thursday (maybe they’ll sit out players?). And then the Sparks play their last game of the season in Seattle… and you know they want get vengeance over last Thursday’s loss.
Either way, the Sparks have control of their playoff destiny once again. It would be quite poetic should they make the postseason after all they had been through.
The Sporting Tribune’s Fredo Cervantes contributed to this report.