Finally playing at a level expected of them in the preseason, the Los Angeles Sparks look to push their season-best winning streak to four games Tuesday when they kick off a three-game road swing with a matinee in Dallas versus the Wings.
Los Angeles opened the season with four wins in six games while Candace Parker recovered from a hamstring injury, but first-year coach Derek Fisher struggled integrating his star forward into the offense following her return. The Sparks endured a four-game losing streak, with two of the losses by more than 20 points, but they have since bounced back with three consecutive wins.
The Sparks (7-6) avenged one of those lopsided defeats Sunday, blowing past the Mystics 98-81 to snap their five-game winning streak. Nneka Ogwumike celebrated her birthday weekend with a season-high 31 points while Chelsea Gray added 13 points, 13 assists and a career-high 10 rebounds for her first career triple-double and just the ninth in league history.
While Los Angeles shot a franchise-record 51.6 percent (16 of 31) from 3-point range, Ogwumike was pleased with her team’s defense against the 3-pointer as the Sparks held the Mystics – who entered the game averaging a league-best 8.96 3-pointers – to 6 of 23 from beyond the arc.
“We have to keep playing team defense,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “There was a lot of points scored on the board today, but I think having that trust out there amongst ourselves on defense … leading into our shots and offense, is really helpful.”
Dallas (4-9) faces a somewhat challenging turnaround with this day matchup as it bids to avoid a third straight loss. The Wings collapsed down the stretch in a 78-66 loss at Chicago on Sunday, getting outscored 15-0 in the final 3:59. Dallas had eight empty possessions in that stretch, missing six shots and committing two turnovers as it again failed to pick up its first road victory.
Rookie Arike Ogunbowale’s crash course to WNBA life continued as she scored a team-high 22 points but shot 7 of 21. The fifth overall pick missed all five of her shots in the fourth quarter, when the Wings were outscored 26-12 and made just 3 of 14 from the field.
Dallas, though, did welcome the return of forward Glory Johnson, who had been representing Montenegro in the EuroBasket tournament. Johnson, playing her first WNBA game since June 15, had four points, three rebounds and two steals in 14 minutes. The Wings are still waiting on the return of starting guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, who is on maternity leave following the birth of her son in April.
The Wings took two of three games between the teams last year, with Diggins-Smith averaging 13.3 points and 9.0 assists. Parker averaged 19.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists to pace the Sparks.
(Chelsea Gray photo courtesy ESPN Stats & Info official Twitter account)