LOS ANGELES-The Los Angeles Sparks were in a groove during a stretch of the third quarter against the Minnesota Lynx when Candace Parker lost her cool and got herself ejected from the game.
That scenario played itself out in favor for the Lynx, which then went on a run to during Parker’s absence to climb back from being potentially blown out on the road to looking as if it might pull off an upset.
Nneka Ogwumike didn’t let that happen. Nor did rest of the Sparks. Ogwumike scored 12 of her game-high 25 points in the third quarter to help ignite the Sparks to a 85-84 win at Staples Center. This was not an easy one for Sparks coach Carol Ross, whose team should have walked away with a much easier victory than what the final outcome displayed.
Instead, Ross saw her team go through the ebb and flow of losing its leader and nearly gift-wrapping the Lynx an improbable win. In matter of a quarter and a half, the Sparks went from playing with inspiration to a team playing with desperation. But in the end, Los Angeles eventually prevailed because it proved to be a team with depth and character, said Ross.
“During that time I think we started to turn the ball over and that fed their offense which would anybody’s offense,” Ross said. “So we got a little sloppy and their defense took advantage, took it to the end. I think we kind of settled down and we hit a couple of shots, we got some energy and emotion on our side, made a great run.
“And I think that it speaks to the character. We always say adversity builds character. Well, I think that ours have been revealed many times. But I think it was very much on stage tonight. That’s another one of the things I love about this team.”
Ross also loves having her star player out on the court. Before she was kicked out of the game, Parker was in the midst of another one of her standard outstanding game, going 6-of-13 from the floor to score 14 points, while racking up her rebound totals with 10 boards.
The Sparks were almost in cruise control with a 10-point lead when Parker animatedly complained to the referees about a potential foul not being called as she went up for a shot.The refs didn’t waste time sending Parker to the locker room early, tossing her with 6: 58 left in the third quarter.
The Sparks seemed to rally from their top player’s ejection for a short period of time as Ogwumike dominated the period to keep Minnesota at arm’s length. Parker’s missing presence, however, played a much bigger role in the fourth quarter when Minnesota made a stunning run to make it a game.
Not only did the Lynx, behind the hot shooting of Maya Moore (17 points) and Seimone Augustus (23 points), make it a game, Minnesota sprinted out to a five-point lead nearly midway in the final period. Ogwumike’s revved up play the rest of the way, however, snatched defeat away from the Sparks to the team recording its 23rd win of the season.
Ogwumike scored eights points and grabbed five of her 11 total rebounds during the last stretch of the game. Afterwards, Ogwumike spoke on losing Parker and her big third quarter.
“In that third quarter, I knew my that my team really needed me to step up,” Ogwumike said. “I knew that CP was in here watching and needed us to step up. We had to do it once before on the road when she was out with her injury. So I just kind of assumed my role and tried to play as aggressively as I could.”