No ‘Gray’ area in Sparks win over Mercury

LOS ANGELES-Things were not looking good for the Los Angeles Sparks. Down 14 points late in the third quarter to the Phoenix Mercury, and already riding a three-game losing skid, the Sparks looked every bit like a team about to go down in flames for a fourth straight game. Guard Chelsea Gray would have none of that.

With Brittany Griner and the Mercury appearing to have their way in building a 63-49 lead as time dwindled down in the third quarter, Gray took matters into her own hands.

Gray waddled into the midst of the Mercury tree-top lineup at Staples Center Tuesday night for the final quarter and a half, and began chopping wood. First, she did it as a distributor. She then went to work as the Sparks’ top scorer in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of her 23 points to lead the home team to a 90-85 come-from-behind win.

Being down and overcoming large deficits isn’t something new to Gray and the Sparks. They’ve seen this picture before. They’ve been there and done that. So, even though they trailed late in the game, Gray said the mindset of the team was good.

“We’re not done until it’s over,” Gray said after her 23-point, five assists and three rebounds night. “This team has come back from twenty down…like in a quarter. With a game of runs, with basketball, the game is never really over. We just have to get stops, rebounds and spread it on the offensive end.”

Up until the 5:15 mark in the third quarter when Gray was substituted into the game to replace Essence Carson, the Sparks weren’t doing too much from an offensive standpoint. Outside of forward Nneka Ogwumike, who had a game-high 24 points, the Sparks were marching to the drumbeat of lethargic and uninspired play.

Gray and all her aggressive ways, changed that. She became an immediate sparkplug the Sparks’ offense was lacking. Gray only scored one point during the last 5:15 of the third quarter, but she got other people involved in the scoring department, assisting directly on four buckets. More importantly, Gray’s play inspired the Sparks to get back into the game.

By the end of the period, the Sparks had cut the Mercury’s lead to five points after outscoring Phoenix, 25-22. The momentum had turned in favor of the Sparks. The Mercury knew it. The fans knew it, too. Gray, playing all 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, connected on four of her six attempted shots in the period to lead the Sparks to their 25th (25-8) win of the season.

The Sparks took firm control of the game, outscoring Phoenix 26-16. Ending their three-game losing streak, which began with a one-point loss at home to the Minnesota Lynx, was crucial, especially with the postseason just around the corner, Gray said.

It’s very important, especially with momentum going into the playoffs, and we wanted to get back to seeing how we play Sparks basketball, and it was really key for us.”

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