The Los Angeles Sparks picked up their second straight win after defeating the Atlanta Dream 85-78. Four Sparks starters scored in double figures, with the bench scoring 20 points.
After championing the return of WNBA star Brittney Griner to the United States during the ESPYS on Wednesday night, forward Nneka Ogwumike led the Sparks with 20 points during their camp day game. Center Chini Ogwumike led the way with seven rebounds.
Dream guard Tiffany Hayes and guard Ari McDonald each scored 18 points. Rookie forward Ryne Howard had nine rebounds.
Sparks interim head coach Fred Williams noted how the Dream has a strong offense. He was concerned about how the Sparks would hold them back.
“Before this game, I was concerned about transition defense and rebounding,” he said. “I thought we really just played solid team defense all around.”
The Sparks were aggressive on defense, making 12 steals. They also earned 26 points off 21 Dream turnovers.
While Brittney Sykes is known for her defensive performance, she turned in an offensive performance during the afternoon contest with 12 points and four assists. Cheney noted how Sykes has multiple roles.
“She’s got to guard the toughest player on the perimeter, she’s got to run the point, she’s got to be a three and sometimes she’s got to post,” Chiney said. “When she’s aggressive, we’re aggressive, when she locks people down on defense, we do the same. She holds us accountable.
This game marked the return of Chennedy Carter, who had been out for the last six games with a knee injury. She scored seven points and increased the tempo of the plays. With seconds left in the first half, Carter hit a layup to give the Sparks a 52-42 advantage.
Center Liz Cambage has returned to gameplay after recovering from her third bout with COVID-19. She had eight points and five rebounds after competing in under 16 minutes.
“Watching this team is a blast,” Cambage said. “I’m still trying to find my flow with my fitness and my lungs this season, but having teammates who push it and work hard also lifts you up.”
The Sparks shot 61.8 percent in the first half. They struggled against McDonald’s quickness and Hayes’ offensive pressure. The physical match had several players hitting the deck hard. Dream guard Erika Wheeler and Hayes even had to be removed after heavy falls. Nneka also fell victim to a heavy fall.
“That’s basketball, sometimes we’re tight ends, that’s what I like to call it,” Sykes said. “I’m proud of my teammates that when we got down we ran to each other.”
With his only 3-pointer of the game, Howard made it 58th three this season. That tied Maya Moore for the most three-pointers made by a rookie in WNBA history.
With a 12-14 overall record, the Sparks are currently in sixth place in the league and remain in playoff contention. They now travel to take on the Las Vegas Aces on July 23 at 7:00 p.m.
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