Sparks beat Dream in OT
The Los Angeles Sparks now have the league’s longest active winning streak (6), as they beat the Atlanta Dream in a double overtime thriller. The Dream fell short for the 10th time in a row and are now 2–11 in the #Wubble. They only had 8 players availabe, so Courtney Williams and Betnijah Laney both had to play more than 40 minutes. It was only a matter of time until fatigue would catch up to Atlanta, as they only scored 4 points in overtime.
The Dream got off to a quick 8–0 start by forcing a couple of LA turnovers. Sydney Wiese would eventually give her team its first lead with her second three-pointer of the night, capping off a 13–4 run. The former Oregon State Beaver finished the game with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist (5/11 FG, 4/5 3pt). She also recorded a game-high 4 steals, as the Sparks remain outstanding in forcing turnovers. Atlanta committed 29, Courtney Williams alone had 10. Los Angeles’ own turnovers kept the Dream in the game, though, as they were able to keep the score sclose thourghout the entire contest. A scary moment happened at the beginning of the second quarter, when Riquna Williams injured her left knee after stepping on Laney’s foot (as did Sabrina Ionescu a few weeks ago). She left the court in good spirit and will be evaluated later after an MRI, as per head coach Derek Fisher. After the injury, the Sparks built a 12-point advantage (33–21), but the Dream would not back down and fight back. They cut the deficit to 5 points right before halftime, as Laney beat the buzzer from downtown after a Glory Johnson dish. Johnson had a great first half, scoring 9 points. She’d be even better after the break, almost quadrupling her season-high 6 with 23 points on 10/16 shooting (2/6 3pt) to lead all scorers.
The Sparks were able to pull ahead by double digits once more, as they opened the second half on a quick 6–0 run. The Dream were able to hang around and come back just like they had before. With 2:30 minutes left in the third – the Sparks were up 55:48 – Blake Dietrick knocked down a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 4. Laney set up Johnson for a layup shortly after and the latter found Stricklen with a wild cross-court pass for another make from behind the arc to give the Dream their first lead since the opening quarter (58–56). Stricklen answered a Sparks min-run with another one from long range. The 6–2 forward may be a streaky shooter, but if she runs hot, she’s as deadly as they come. She scored an efficient 16 points and was prolific with her shot (5/7 FG), especially from the perimeter where she made 3 out of 4. In a back and fourth battle, both teams went head to head until the final buzzer. The lead changed on almost every possession, but it was the Dream who managed to make it a 2-possession game with just over a minute left in the game, as Laney laid the ball in on the break after a Nneka Ogwumike turnover to give her team a 79–75 advantage. Elizabeth Williams stuffed Brittney Sykes at the rim, but the Sparks got the rebound and Owumike would knock down both free throws after being fouled by Laney. LA’s MVP candidate Candace Parker came up huge in the clutch: First, she blocked Elizabeth Williams’ layup attempt, then she stole the ball from Johnson. Ogwumike got fouled again and tied the game at 79. Courtney pulled up from midrange over Parker and found the net with 3.7 seconds remaining. The Sparks went to their center out of the timeout. Parker caught the ball at the elbow and drove to the cleared paint. She beat Johnson on the drive for an easy 2 to send the game to overtime.
Atlanta’s fatigue would take its toll on the team’s play in the end, as the Sparks were able to pull ahead for good. Chelsea Gray knocked down 2 three-pointers and 4 free throws to put the game out of the Dream’s reach and secure the W for her team. The “Point Gawd” finished with 20 points (10 in OT) on 7/17 shooting (2/4 3pt). Her and Parker put the team on their backs when it mattered most. Lots of respect to the Atlanta Dream as well, though. They played their hearts out and left it all on the court. With Carter back, they should be able to snap their streak and win a few more games.
Wings beat Mystics despite Hines-Allen’s heroics
The Washington Mystics and the Dallas Wings were both sitting at 4 wins before Friday’s contest. The reigning champs’ injury woes have grown even more, as Emma Meesseman wasn’t available. She’ll likely be back in their next game, but missing her size and playmaking is a tough blow for an already depleted team. The Wings on the other hand were still without their rookie Satou Sabally and Moriah Jefferson. In their absence, Marina Mabrey and Allisha Gray have stepped up for head coach Brian Agler’s team, though.
Powered by their sharpshooting Fighting Irish backcourt of Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale, Dallas jumped out to an early 18–6 lead over the Mystics. The Wings’ defense forced a couple of turnovers, which allowed them to get out on the fastbreak, where they excel this season. Washington was able to narrow the gap towards the end of the first quarter, but Katie Lou Samuelson got the lucky bounce on her three-pointer from the wing with time winding down, putting Dallas up 28–17. Washington fought back in the second period, though, going on a 7–0 run to start the quarter. Myisha Hines-Allen dominated the post, as Dallas was unable to match her size and strength on the interior. The Wings relied on their outside shooting (9/15 3pt in the first half), with Kayla Thornton, Mabrey and Ogunbowale lighting it up. The league’s leading scorer started the game a perfect 4/4 from the floor and 7/7 at the line for 17 points; she’d make 5 more shots at the charity stripe over the course of the game, but only 1 more field goal (5/11 FG, 2/6 3pt, 12/12 FT for a team-high 24 points). She embodied Dallas’ struggles in the second half, but one after the other. Dallas blew the game wide open with an 18–3 run and eventually pulled ahead by 20 after a corner three by Thornton right before the end of the half. The Dallas forward had 16 points in the first half, courtesy of her 4 makes from long range. The Mystics looked devastated as the teams headed into halftime, but Mike Thibault must have found the right words in the dressing room.
But first, Mabrey set up Isabelle Harrison twice before knocking down another one from the perimeter to extend Dallas’ lead to a game-high 23 points (65–42). Harrison had a big third quarter and her best scoring output of the season. The 6–3 forward scored 19 points on 8/13 shooting, collected 4 rebounds and blocked 2 shots as well. Washington would work their way back into the game, though, as Ariel Atkins caught fire. The lefty wing was efficient from three-point range (3/5) and teamed up with Hines-Allen to cut Dallas’ lead. The Wings on the other hand answered Washington’s spurts and still were up 72–54 with 2:40 minutes left in the third. Hines-Allen then splashed 2 threes on consecutive possessions as well as 2 free throws to bring her team within 10. She countered Dallas’s mini-run with her third successful shot from behind the arc to put the score to 76–65. Kiara Leslie, Jackie Gemelos, “Sug” Sutton and Alaina Coates all played big minutes off the bench, supporting their starters. Coates especially was invaluable, as she crashed the offensive glass in the final period, creating second chance opportunities time and time again. The Mystics’ bench even turned the game round completely, when Leslie buried a triple to put Washington in the lead 86–85 after an impressive 21–9 run in the fourth. Frustration was showing for Dallas, especially with Ogunbowale, who forced too many difficult shots. Gray put Dallas back up by 2 with an and-1 at 88–86, but Hines-Allen came right back at the Wings to tie the game. Her 35 points marked a career-high for the powerful forward, who also added 12 boards, 4 of which came on the offensive board. Neither Dallas nor Washington were able to score any more points in the final minute, as Gray’s three-pointer was blocked by Hines-Allen on the close-out. Dallas had gone just 1/10 from the three-point line in the second half, but still had managed to shoot 50% from the floor. It wasn’t enough to win the game in regulation, though. The Mystics couldn’t keep up with Dallas in the overtime, as Tyasha Harris came up big when it mattered most. The young guard stepped up in crunchtime with two big buckets and an assist for fellow rookie Bella Alarie. Washington would only make more field goal, when Ariel Atkins put in a three with 20 seconds left in the game. In the end, Dallas got away with a 101–92 win over a Washington squad that was showing great spirit and character.