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Sparks punch playoff ticket with emphatic victory over Indiana

Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike led a balanced attack for the Sparks, scoring a game-high 17 points and collecting seven rebounds on Thursday against the Indiana Fever.
Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike led a balanced attack for the Sparks, scoring a game-high 17 points and collecting seven rebounds on Thursday against the Indiana Fever.
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

For the first time this season, the Sparks had all 12 players active. The result Thursday night was emphatic: a 98-65 victory over the Indiana Fever, a 10th consecutive win at home and a spot in the WNBA playoffs.

Donned in charcoal and pink jerseys to celebrate breast health awareness night, the Sparks took some time to find their footing.

After a sloppy first quarter that ended with the Sparks down 18-14, Los Angeles turned things around.

A 43-16 run spanning the second and third quarters all but sealed the game, qualifying the Sparks for their eighth consecutive postseason appearance.

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Guard Riquna Williams played for the first time since July 14 after serving a 10-game league suspension for a domestic violence accusation. She led the team in minutes and finished with 10 points, five rebounds and three assists.

“I’ve been up since 4 a.m.,” Williams said. “I’ve been super excited. ... My teammates love me, they trust me, they know what I’m capable of. I’ve been with them every step of the way.”

The Sparks strung together one of their most well-balanced games of the year. On offense, the ball darted around the court to the tune of 26 assists, as the Sparks tied their season high for points.

They forced 21 turnovers and held Indiana to one offensive rebound. Los Angeles had a 41-27 advantage in rebounds.

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“We were really active as a team tonight,” coach Derek Fisher said. “A lot of times it’s not strategy, etc., it’s just a willingness to be the first person to the ball when it’s in the air.

“A lot of our players made that effort tonight. It was a collective effort. We’ve been on our guards about being better rebounders, and I thought that they made an effort to do that tonight.”

Although it was a total team performance — all 12 players participated and 11 scored — it was the production of the Ogwumike sisters that led the way. Forward-center Nneka led all scorers with 17 points and had seven rebounds and five steals, and center Chiney came off the bench to score 15 points on seven-for-eight shooting.

“Playing with Nneka, I know it like the back of my hand,” Chiney said. “But it’s also building those relationships with others that I cherish. ... I think we get our identity from the defensive side, and then that carries over to the offensive side.”

The Sparks (17-10) will take on the Connecticut Sun on Sunday at Staples Center, where they haven’t lost since June 18.

Los Angeles holds the fourth seed for the playoffs, which would result in a first-round bye and a second-round single-elimination game at home.


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