The Los Angeles Sparks got off to a slow start in Game 1 of the WNBA semifinals before pulling away from the Phoenix Mercury in the third quarter and cruising to a 79-66 victory in the opening game of their best-of-five series. Game 2 is set for Thursday, Sept. 14 at The Walter Pyramid on the Long Beach State campus (click here for tickets).
Led by Nneka Ogwumike’s team-high 19 points, all five starters had double figures for the Sparks. After playing from behind throughout much of the first half, the Sparks clamped down on the Mercury’s star-studded lineup, limiting Brittney Griner to four second half points and holding Diana Taurasi to just 2-of-10 shooting for just six points, a playoff low for the perennial WNBA All-Star.
"I'm proud of how we adjusted," Sparks forward Candace Parker said, according to the AP. "I'm proud of our team and how we settled down coming out of halftime."
As the No. 2 seed in the WNBA playoffs, the Sparks had eight days of rest prior to their first playoff game. The time off showed early, as the Sparks looked a bit rusty and allowed the Mercury to seize an early lead. But as the game wore on, the Sparks looked every bit like the defending WNBA champs.
"Their chemistry you can tell is pretty strong right now," Taurasi told the AP. "They seem a lot more sure of themselves and they showed that tonight."
Following Thursday night’s game, the series shifts to Phoenix for Game 3 on Sept. 17 at 3pm. If the Sparks don’t sweep, Game 4 will take place in Phoenix on Sept. 19 and, if necessary, the series will return to L.A. for a deciding Game 5 on Sept. 21.
Click here for tickets to Game 2 of the Sparks-Mercury series, watch a behind-the-scenes look at Parker getting ready of the postseason in the video above and keep it on AXS.com for more on the WNBA.