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C. Ogwumike, Parker Power Sparks to 20th Win

September 4, 2019 - Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) - Los Angeles Sparks News Release

LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Sparks defeated the Atlanta Dream 70-60 at home Tuesday night, making head coach Derek Fisher's the ninth WNBA coach to hit the 20-win mark in their first full season of coaching.

Candace Parker finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds while Chiney Ogwumike logged 17 points and 10 rebounds, both notching their third and fifth double-doubles of the season, respectively. The Dream won the tip and got on the board first, but the lead swung back and forth with a total of five ties and six lead changes in the first 4:48 minutes of the contest. Parker - who led the Sparks in points, rebounds and assists on the night - notched four points and dished out two assists in the first 5:12 of the game, helping Los Angeles to eight of its first 12 points. But the Dream answered with a 10-0 run and jumped ahead 22-14 with 2:22 to go in the quarter.

Maria Vadeeva ended the Dream's run with a layup off of an offensive rebound, but Atlanta's Alex Bentley drained a pull up jumper to end the quarter, extending the Dream's lead to 24-16. Bentley logged nine points and two assists in the period.

In the second quarter, a layup by C. Ogwumike and a steal by Chelsea Gray on the following possession - which led to layup - capped off a Sparks 9-0 run, knotted the game at 26-26 and forced Atlanta to burn a timeout. Out of the huddle, Los Angeles continued their hot shooting with layups by Parker and Ogwumike to extend it to a 13-0 run, giving the Sparks a 30-26 advantage.

Bentley, however, ended Los Angeles' run with her second and third 3-pointers of the night to regain the lead for Atlanta. The Dream took a 34-30 lead, but back-to-back layups by C. Ogwumike - who replaced her sister Nneka Ogwumike in the starting lineup - tied it up at 34-34. The Dream ended the quarter with Monique Billings going 1-of-2 from the free-throw line, heading into the locker room with a 35-34 halftime lead.

After the break, the Sparks' defense held the Dream - who shot just 3-of-17 in the quarter - scoreless until the 5:37 mark. Los Angeles forced Atlanta into five turnovers and outscored the Dream 17-10 in the period. The Sparks played its best defensive third quarter of the season, but saw a 13-point lead diminish to 51-46 heading into the final period.

The two teams exchanged baskets multiple times in the fourth quarter, but the Sparks were able to hang on for their 12th straight home win, which tied for the Sparks' third-longest home winning streak in franchise history.

Up Next: The Sparks will stay at home and host the Seattle Storm on Thursday night at 7: p.m. PT on CBS Sports Network & Spectrum SportsNet.

Sparks Notes

- The Sparks held the Dream to just 11 points and 10 points in the second and third quarters, respectively - their best defensive second and third quarters of the season

- Candace Parker logged 21 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, leading the team in all three categories

- Chiney Ogwumike - who was in the starting lineup in place of Nneka Ogwumike - registered 17 points and 10 rebounds for her fifth double- double of the season

- Head coach Derek Fisher became the ninth WNBA coach hit the 20-win mark in their first season of coaching

Dream Notes

- Tiffany Hayes, the Dream's leading scorer averaging 14.7 points this season, did not play due to injury during warmups

- Monique Billings logged seven points and 10 rebounds off the bench

- Alex Bentley - who started her third game of the season - finished with 15 points, her 14th double-digit game of the season

- The Dream outscored Los Angeles 24- 16 in the first quarter, but was outscored every other quarter after that

Quotes

Derek on 11-0 run in third quarter which led to separation:

"I think the players found a little bit of energy they were lacking in the first half...In the third quarter they tried to clear their minds a little bit each defensive possession one at a time, and that was really were the separation came from. I thought we rebounded the ball a lot better, we were more active in the third quarter and we were able to get a little bit more separation."

Derek on Chelsea Gray playing full 40 minutes:

"Because she's Chelsea Gray. We just haven't been as good when she's off the floor. I don't intend to do that when the game starts, but as the game goes on I don't necessarily feel like we're going to get the things that we can get when she's on the court. Tonight she's starting to figure out that's probably what I am going to do. She got off the ball a little more, Candace handled, Sydney handled, other people initiated the offense. So she expanded less energy playing 40 minutes then she had at times playing 34 minutes and I like the adjustment she was able to make.

Chiney Ogwumike on keeping a positive attitude on the bench:

"Going in, I knew what the situation was, so I was able to set my mind to being aggressive and doing whatever my team needed me to do. It has been a process for me trying to adjust to rotations and minutes, but today I had at least some clarity even though there was some adversity. I am really proud of how everyone stayed aggressive and stayed true to our game."

Chiney Ogwumike on the Dream:

"These teams, like Atlanta, are hard to beat because they are playing carefree basketball. Obviously, they are out of the playoffs but they still play with pride. So, we knew that those are the dangerous ones that can sneak up on you."

Candace Parker on the second half:

"When you look at turnovers, you need to look at the way in which you're turning the ball over. A lot of ours tonight were in our control, and we were throwing them out of bounds, which allows us to have them take the ball out and set our defense. I do not think they scored a lot out of fast break because of the turnovers."

Candace Parker on Nneka Ogwumike's absence:

"Obviously, we prefer for her not to be on the sidelines. But, however we can contribute, we all know the game, and we all are in it for the team, so she did a good job at staying involved even though she was not able to play. She was talking to everybody and making sure that we're doing our right defensive rotations and that offensively we were moving the ball."

Nicki Collins on Sparks' defense down the stretch:

"The shots we missed in the third quarter were the shots we made in the first quarter. Breland made early jump shots, and then didn't make any after that. Bentley made jump shots in the first quarter, and didn't make any the rest of the game. Some of it was we got good shots, but we didn't finish around the rim. We're a team that, because we haven't been particularly good all year, we miss a couple shots, it's easy for that to be contagious."

Nicki Collins on executing game plan:

"I thought for the most part, our defense was pretty on point. We made Gray score over the top of us and she did. I thought Chiney Ogwumike got too much too easy around the rim getting to her right hand, but she's a worker. And we knew Candace Parker would have a big game with Nneka Ogwumike out, or would try to. But TRP hurt us in the last game, and we controlled her. Riquna hurt us in the first game and we controlled her. So we did all the things scouting report related, other than put the ball in the basket."

Nicki Collins on struggling offensively and not finishing close games:

"We're competing. We're continuing to compete regardless of our score, regardless of our record, regardless of who we're playing. There's a lot of heart in that locker room. ... Why are we losing close games? We haven't found a way to finish. We haven't made big shots late. You can pretty much look at our statistics and see why we haven't won games. ... There was a stretch up until August where we were on pace to be the worst offensive team in the history of the WNBA - field- goal percentage wise. And if you look at our roster, every player is shooting a worse percentage than they were a year ago. Is that because we don't have Angel? I think it's part of it. Angel is a closer and a player that wants the ball in late-game situations, no different than Candace wanting the ball in this game. And when Candace misses, Chiney cleans it up. So even tonight without Nneka, they had two closers in Chelsea and Candace. They can go two-man action, but we tend to play to who's playing well that day. And for us offensively, we have to have a good synergy because we don't have those individual players to play to and play through."

Alex Bentley on finishing out the season strong:

"Just playing hard. I know we aren't in the playoffs, but I'm not going to change the way I've been playing. I am still going to go out there and play hard because I have that respect for the game, so that's how I play the game."

Alex Bentley on Sparks' second-half defense:

"We missed a lot of open shots, and the Sparks are long. It is always hard to score on a long team, but we missed a lot of shots and a lot of layups. We also had about 16 turnovers, so that is a credit to them too on being long."

Alex Bentley on what changed offensively in the second half:

"We missed some shots. There was a while where we didn't score for minutes, and the Sparks did score which allowed them to make a comeback. It resulted in a close game where they took the lead and made free throws while we weren't scoring."

Monique Billings on homecoming game in Los Angeles:

"It is special. It is something I do not want to ever take for granted. LA is always going to be home for me and I miss it. I am so thankful for the support that I have."

Monique Billings on finishing out the season strong:

"We have to grow from the mistakes that we are making and keep getting better so we can keep building."

Monique Billings on battling in the paint with All-Stars like Chiney Ogwumike and Candace Parker:

"You cannot take any plays off. I know that they are playing with high energy, so am I. I am always trying to match their energy."

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