Sparks upset Aces, win fourth straight game

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Sparks win their fourth straight game and hold firm on the 8th playoff spot.

LAS VEGAS — Well, the Los Angeles Sparks are suddenly one of the hotter teams in the W.

The Sparks went into Las Vegas and shocked the Aces with a 78-72 victory. I had joked in the game preview about how the Aces were technically undefeated at home after their loss to the New York Liberty at the Commissioner’s Cup Final didn’t count in the standings. Well, the Aces now have an official blemish on their home record after winning their first 16 games in The House.

A’ja Wilson got things started as she helped Vegas get off to a 6-2 start. And then the Sparks started on their trapping, which frustrated Vegas like they did in their first match-up. It enabled Los Angeles to go on a 14-0 run. The Sparks also shot 4 for 5 from three in the first and they were able to go into the second quarter with a 24-15 lead.

Being the Aces, they can terrifyingly turn around a game with their three-point shooting. They made four to start the quarter. But the Sparks were able to withstand the barrage as they scored the last 8 points to take a 42-36 lead into the halftime break.

Layshia Clarendon continued their scoring binge as they got going in the third quarter to keep the Sparks head. Vegas tried to keep it close as Alysha Clark made back-to-back corner threes. Chelsea Gray made a huge three-point play to cut the deficit to 57-55 going into the final 10 minutes of regulation.

The Sparks swelled the lead to double digits after they scored 8 unanswered. The Aces did make one final push and had a chance to tie or take the lead. But A’ja Wilson missed two lay-ups and a short jumper. The Sparks got the board and were able to capitalize with a clutch Nneka Ogwumike lay-up. 20 gametime seconds later, the Sparks have won their fourth in a row.

It wasn’t the most complete game; the Sparks had a lot of turnovers. But a win over the defending champions is the biggest one for the Sparks this season. The Aces were held to shooting .360 for the game and were only 8 for 32 (.250) from three. Sparks shot .528 and, even though the volume wasn’t there, they made half of their 12 three-pointers.

A’ja got going and was pretty much her normal self. But the Sparks made it difficult for the guards while their own guard play was excellent despite the giveaways. Layshia Clarendon remarked after the game that they were still pissed they lost their first match-up since their game plan was pretty much the same on Saturday afternoon as their first game. But it all worked out even though the Sparks turned the ball over 25 times (though Vegas didn’t capitalize like they should with only 20 points off turnovers) and were beaten on the offensive glass, 13-2 (though the Sparks shooting much better than the Aces certainly contributed to that). Because of that offensive rebounding, the Aces scored 15 second chance points compared to L.A.’s two. Still, it comes down to making shots and the Sparks did that plenty.

Layshia Clarendon scored 22 points to lead the Sparks. Jordin Canada scored 20 while the ever-so-consistent Nneka Ogwumike got her 99th career double-double with 19 points and 11 boards. The Aces were led by defending MVP A’ja Wilson with 25 points while Kelsey Plum shot 4 for 13 (.308) on her way to 12 points.

With those 20 points, Canada now has 1,500 for her WNBA career.

And yes, the Aces were playing their fourth game in 7 nights while the Sparks had an entire week off. But we’d probably raise more questions if the Sparks lost. The schedule is just part of the beast and the Sparks took full advantage of it.

The Sparks play at the Galen Center in USC for their next home game on Wednesday. They will try to get their fifth straight win as they face the Phoenix Mercury.

With a consistent line-up and chemistry building, the Sparks are increasingly looking like a team not to be messed with.