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Riquna Williams joins starters and helps power Sparks’ rout of Sky

The Sparks used balanced scoring and a spark from Riquna Williams on Sunday to defeat the Chicago Sky 94-69.

Coach Derek Fisher inserted Williams into the starting lineup, and the move provided the Sparks with a well-needed boost as she excelled in complementing Chelsea Gray and Candace Parker.

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“Riquna’s addition takes some pressure off of Chelsea and Candace on the offensive end because of how dynamic she is,” Fisher said. “Defensively … she has the ability to be an irritant and someone that other guards don’t like playing against. She’s physical. … I think [her] addition really helps our [starters].”

After dropping four consecutive games overall, the Sparks (6-6) have won back-to-back home contests for the first time this season and are finding their chemistry offensively and defensively. Five Sparks players scored in double figures, and two others had eight points.

In her second start this season, Williams scored a team-high 19 points, shooting five for 11 from the field overall and three for eight from beyond the three-point arc.

“I love when she has success. I see how hard she works every day … how she takes care of herself and how she prepares herself,” said Sparks guard Sydney Wiese, who scored 11 points off the bench. “She goes hard in every workout and practice to set the tone. No one can stay in front of her. That’s her gift. When her shots fall, you can’t stop her.”

The Sky scored the first five points of the game, but the Sparks strung together an 11-0 run to claim a lead that they would never relinquish. They extended it with a 8-0 run to start the second.

The Sparks shot 45.7% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc en route to a 48-36 halftime lead. They made 35 of 71 shots (49.3%) from the field for the game and 10 of 24 (41.7%) from long range.

“I was just trying to come out aggressive and give the team what we needed, that energy and that spark,” said Williams, who finished the first half with 15 points.

Despite not having veteran wing Alana Beard, the reigning two-time WNBA defensive player of the year who did not play because of personal issues, the Sparks held the Sky to 25.6% shooting in the first half and 33.3% for the game. Diamond DeShields led the Sky with 23 points.

“Once again, we cracked down on the defensive end. We made it hard ... tough,” Williams said. “We made them very uncomfortable.”

Parker, who finished with 12 points and six rebounds, added that “if we move the ball and continue to share it, good things will happen. The ball will find the correct shot. We have great one-on-one players, which [forces] teams to rotate. When we move the ball, it makes the shot easier.”

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Gray had 13 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Sparks, who are at .500 for the first time since June 18. The 94 points they scored Sunday set their season high.

The Sky (6-6) dropped their third straight game and will head to Las Vegas to play the Aces on Tuesday.

The Sparks will have a one-week sabbatical before they finish their homestand against the Mystics on Sunday.

“It’s hard to maintain the level of adrenaline intensity and passion it takes to compete in this game,” Fisher said of the layoff. “So we’re going to work really hard in practice this week creating competitive situations [and] making sure we’re scrimmaging and keeping that edge of who we are.”

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