LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Sparks used a strong fourth quarter to earn an 80-72 victory over the Phoenix Mercury (2-2) at the Staples Center on Sunday afternoon.
The win capped off a strong week for Los Angeles, who took three of their first four games. The game also marked the season debut for Candace Parker, who missed the first three games of the season with an elbow injury.
“I think we’re getting better,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “We’re not where we need to be yet. They’ve got some really good players, well-coached, and they’re tough to defend.”
Chelsea Gray led the way for the Sparks with 23 points and nine rebounds. Nneka Ogwumike added 18 points and shot 66 percent from the floor. Odessey Sims chipped in 14 points for Los Angeles, who made their home debut after beginning the season with three straight road games.
Parker checked in to the game in the second quarter to a standing ovation from the crowd. She played 18 minutes, finishing with 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting.
“[Candice] made some really good plays,” Agler said. “She obviously didn’t play her best because we’ve seen her best.”
Both teams kept the game close until the final quarter. That is when the Sparks took control and outscored the Mercury 18-7 in the period.
Phoenix struggled from three-point range, shooting just 4-for-16 and shot 25 percent. Sancho Lyttle led the way for the Mercury with 20 points and six rebounds. Brittney Griner added 17 points but was limited to just four rebounds.
Diana Taurasi also struggled as she had just 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting. Phoenix also struggled to keep control of the basketball, turning the ball over 18 times on the afternoon.
“We got to get physically and mentally tougher on the defensive side,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. “We were too quick hitting–we didn’t execute, we didn’t move the ball as well as we should of.”
The Sparks are now 3-1 on the season and will return to the court next Sunday when they welcome the defending WNBA champions Minnesota Lynx (2-2) to Staples Center in a rematch of last season’s Finals series.