Short-handed Sparks hold off Chicago Sky for win

Los Angeles Sparks guard Kristi Toliver
Los Angeles Sparks guard Kristi Toliver (20) controls the ball during a WNBA basketball game against the Dallas Wings on May 14.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The Los Angeles Sparks (2-3) swept back-to-back home games, earning a win over the Chicago Sky (2-6) on Saturday.

The Los Angeles Sparks used a speedy undersized lineup to build a lead and hold off a late rally by the Chicago Sky.

Sparks hold tough against Chicago Sky, secure second home win

The Sparks, competing without two stars and a Jack Frost touch from behind the arc in the second half, kept pushing the Chicago Sky during the fourth quarter Saturday.

The Sparks rallied for a 68-63 win behind the pick-and-roll offense, a turnover-inducing defense and heart.

“Overall in the team’s effort and just getting this win today, this was all heart. Just because they didn’t want to let each other down,” coach Derek Fisher said.

The Sparks (4-3) worked their way into the paint for nearly all their points in the fourth quarter, forcing the Sky (2-7) to take highly contested shots or use up the shot clock.

“That was the goal, at least in putting the team together the way we did,” Fisher said. “It was to have multiple ball handlers and decision-makers, players that can put pressure on the rim, that can help us get to the free-throw line.”

Going into the fourth quarter, the Sparks had dropped to nearly 10% shooting from the field and needed to find a scoring option in a hurry. Amanda Zahui B played a major role in getting the offense back on its feet. Scoring six points to tie the game with just under five minutes to play, she pulled the Sparks out of their shooting slump. Zahui B finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.

“Honestly, I’m having so much fun. This is one of the most fun seasons that I’ve had in the WNBA,” Zahui B said. “Even when we struggle a little bit, we have the best people on the best hyping us up, there’s always energy, and that’s what makes it so much fun.”

The Sparks took the lead on a Nia Coffey layup and got insurance points from a floater in the lane by Kristi Toliver. After that, the goal was to maintain the lead. The defense was locked in all game, but down the stretch, even without forcing turnovers, there were no gaps or breathing room for the Sky to get scoring opportunities.

“I feel like the more our defense is going, the better our offense. We really try to accumulate points off of the turnovers because if we make you turn it over, we gotta get something out of it,” Sparks guard Te’a Cooper said.

While the defense, that forced 18 turnovers, was the key to the win, Erica Wheeler was masterful with her acrobatic takes to the basket. Wheeler ended with a season-high 22 points, five rebounds and five assists. Six of Wheeler’s points were the dagger entering the final minutes of the game.

“I think tonight I came in super aggressive just attacking their bigs. Because we know their bigs aren’t that fast, that downhill drive is lethal when you’re fast,” Wheeler said. “My goal today was to be super aggressive, and that’s what I did.”

After winning back-to-back home games, the Sparks travel to play the Washington Mystics Thursday. The game will air on CBS Sports Network at 4 p.m.

“We’ve talked about, especially internally, as we’ve gone through and continue to go through a transition into a new era of Sparks basketball of how we want to play the game, the way we want to compete every night,” Fisher said. “We have to play with a level of mental and physical toughness that we’re hungry and that we’re going to play each possession like it’s the last one of the game.”


Sparks turn defense into offense, lead at half

In a half, the Sparks have proven that off-the-dribble and during a fast break, it’s hard to keep up with them. The guards have used the pick-and-roll and dribble moves to get past their defenders. These moves either led to a score or a pass to an open teammate for a jump shot.

The defense has forced 11 turnovers, and the Sparks are known to push the tempo. Their lack of height in their lineup means they rely more on speed. They used it to get multiple 2-on-1 opportunities in transition.

Shooting 41.2% from the field is always a bonus, especially when Erica Wheeler is already in double figures with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field. Te’a Cooper was second in scoring for the Sparks with nine points, seven of which came in the first quarter. She’s shooting 3-of-5 from the field and 50% from three-point range.


Sparks rolling early in first half; Kristi Toliver hits 28-footer

Kristi Toliver continues to help lead the Sparks’ offense, delivering this 28-foot three-pointer.


Sparks honor star Candace Parker, celebrate Pride Day

The Sparks honored former Los Angeles star Candace Parker on Saturday afternoon.

Parker, who spent 13 seasons with the Sparks before joining her hometown Chicago Sky, did not play due to an ankle injury. The Sparks also are without Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, who are out with knee injuries.

The matchup between the Sparks (3-3) and the Sky (2-6) also is part of Pride Day for the home team. The Sparks are selling Pride-themed shirts featuring rainbow colors for $30 apiece.


Sparks outclass Indiana Fever to earn first home win

An eventful Thursday night game that started with a tribute to Seimone Augustus and fans returning to Los Angeles Convention Center was rounded out with a dominant Sparks (3-3) win over the visiting Indiana Fever (1-9).

The Sparks rolled to a 98-63 win, offsetting the absence of stars Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike sidelined by knee injuries.

“As we’ve lost bodies, teammates and players, what I saw tonight that I’m hoping can carry over is a look in everybody’s eye that they know they’re going to play,” Sparks coach Derek Fisher said. “They know that they have to do their job in order for us to have a chance to win.”

Entering the game, the Sparks were undersized and light on numbers, but they turned it into an advantage.

“I think we’re going to be able to do certain things with different lineups .. .being smaller,” guard Kristi Toliver said. “Just overall, being tough, being resilient, accepting the challenge. Just embracing the adversity that we’re in and seeing how we can respond to it.”

The team closed the first quarter with a 10-2 run never took its foot off the pedal. At halftime, Toliver showcased why she’s one of the top scorers in the league, leading the way with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting and 2-of-5 from behind the three-point line. Bria Holmes was close behind with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting and a perfect 2-for-2 from deep while tallying six total rebounds.

And although Te’a Cooper picked up three fouls in the first half, she was the aggressor on offense and defense throughout the game. Twelve of her points came from inside the lane or from the free-throw line. All of her moves to the basket were a variation of an in-and-out cross or a hesitation cross.

The Fever’s offensive struggles helped pad the Sparks’ lead. They shot a miserable 34.3% from the field. The blunders for Indiana on offense, whether off turnovers or missed shots, led to an disorganized defense that created lanes for the Sparks.

Collectively, the Sparks shot 56.1% from the field and an even 50% from behind the three-point arc.

Toliver finished with 22, Holmes had 14 and Cooper scored 15. Everyone who touched the floor for the Sparks scored.

Erica Wheeler had a quiet 14 points, but the pace of the offense helped all Sparks players score.

“Pushing the ball, I think that’s what we’re good at because we get out and run,” Wheeler said. “It definitely created a pace that was amazing tonight, so we always want to push the ball in transition.”

It was the Sparks’ first home win of the season. The team will host Chicago Saturday at noon, with the contest airing on ABC.


Sparks showcase offensive fire power in first half

As the first half came to a close, the Sparks were in complete control. The Sparks used their speed advantage off the dribble and lethal from deep range.

Kristi Toliver showcased why she’s one of the top scorers in the league, leading the way with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting and 2-of-5 from behind the three-point line. Bria Holmes was close behind with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting and a perfect 2-for-2 from deep while tallying six rebounds.


Sparks offense off to fast start

The offensive attack for the Sparks didn’t take their foot off the gas without Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike. They end the first quarter on an 10-2 run. This run helped them finish the quarter leading 25-14. Bria Holmes leads the scoring off the bench with six points.


Sparks honor player-turned-coach Seimone Augustus

The Sparks honored Seimone Augustus, better known as Money Mone, Thursday night. The veteran shifted from player to assistant coach shortly before the season opener.


Sparks face Fever without Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike

The Sparks are facing the Fever without a few big names in the lineup due to injuries.