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Sparks can’t cool off Connecticut Sun in Game 2 of WNBA semifinals

Connecticut Sun’s Courtney Williams, center, passes between Sparks’ Riquna Williams, left, and Candace Parker during the first half of Game 2 of a WNBA playoff game on  Thursday in Uncasville, Conn.
Connecticut Sun’s Courtney Williams, center, passes between Sparks’ Riquna Williams, left, and Candace Parker during the first half of Game 2 of a WNBA playoff game on Thursday in Uncasville, Conn.
(Jessica Hill / Assocaited Press)

It was the start coach Derek Fisher wanted.

An energized Sparks squad came out firing and was up by double digits early in the second quarter on the road.

The sizzle fizzled from there.

Connecticut’s dominance on the boards turned the tide and the Sun rolled on to a 94-68 victory Thursday in Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals at Mohegan Sun Arena.

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“One game at a time,” said Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, who led the team with 18 points and seven rebounds. “We were going to play a Game 3 anyway, so we just have to win Game 3.”

The Sparks (22-15) were scheduled to fly home Friday morning, after an overnight bus ride to Boston, one game away from elimination in the best-of-5 series.

Game 3 is at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Pyramid at Long Beach State.

“It’s important to view Game 3 as just Game 3,” Fisher said. “The results in Game 1 and 2 have no relevance to how you play in Game 3.”

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Los Angeles is 15-2 at home this season but has yet to play at the Pyramid.

The Sun (25-11) got big performances from a trio of starters - Jonquel Jones (27 points, 13 rebounds), Courtney Williams (25 points) and Alyssa Thomas (12 points, 13 rebounds) – but their work on the glass was key to a 2-0 series lead.

Sparks’ Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, left, and Chelsea Gray, right, pressure Connecticut Sun’s Alyssa Thomas, center, during the first half of Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals on Thursday.
Sparks’ Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, left, and Chelsea Gray, right, pressure Connecticut Sun’s Alyssa Thomas, center, during the first half of Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals on Thursday.
(Jessica Hill / Associated Press)

“I’m so proud of the energy and effort,” Connecticut coach Curt Miller said. “We weren’t perfect at the offensive end … but we got so many second-chance opportunities that we had a lead when it didn’t feel like a great first half offensively, and it was all because of rebounding.

“And that counted.”

Guard Riquna Williams, who scored just two points in Game 1, found her touch in the first quarter, scoring seven of her 14 points to help the Sparks lead 22-15.

The Sparks pushed it to 26-15 early in the second before that early energy started to fade away.

Connecticut had 29 rebounds in the first half, which broke the WNBA playoff record. Twelve boards came on the offensive end and allowed the Sun to score 13 second-chance points on the way to a 41-40 halftime lead.

“It started in the second quarter when we were forcing them to miss shots, the way that they really invoked their will on the offensive glass, I thought that helped build their confidence,” Fisher said.

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For the game, Connecticut outrebounded the Sparks 46-24, converting 16 offensive boards into 28 points.

Despite the second-quarter shift, the Sun only led 41-40 at the half.

The Sparks even reclaimed the lead, 46-43, early in the third on two foul shots from Tierra Ruffin-Pratt.

But Courtney Williams stole the quarter, scoring 13 points, including the Sun’s final two baskets to make it 70-57 and tie their largest lead. The Sparks’ deficit only grew from there.

While Williams and backcourt mate Chelsea Gray (10 points) found their offense, Sparks star Candace Parker was held to three points – her fewest since scoring just two against Dallas on July 9. All of Parker’s shots (1-for-3) came on three-pointers.

“I just feel that is kind of what the game dictated,” Fisher said of Parker’s quiet night. “I think early to start the game we made an effort to get the ball inside … but as the game went on, I think the game changed due to the rebounding and the second shots.”


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