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Sparks Clinch Playoff Berth in Blowout Win over Fever

August 23, 2019 - Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) - Los Angeles Sparks News Release

LOS ANGELES-- The Los Angeles Sparks defeated the Indiana Fever 98-65 to extend their home winning streak to 10 games, the longest winning streak at home since the 2012 season. With the victory, the Sparks become the fourth team in the WNBA to clinch a playoff spot this season, the franchise's 19th playoff appearance in 23 seasons.

Los Angeles was led by All-Star and MVP candidate Nneka Ogwumike who had 17 points and seven rebounds, including five on the offensive end. Six Sparks players eclipsed double-digits tonight, including 15 from Chiney Ogwumike. Ogwumike's 15 points are her most in a game since July 23 against the Atlanta Dream.

Candace Parker led the Sparks in assists with five tonight, eclipsing 1,200 assists in her career.

The Sparks lead grew to as many as 38 points in the early stages of the fourth quarter, which set a season-high for biggest lead held at any point this season. The previous high of 30 had been reached twice this season, once against Indiana on July 12.

Los Angeles' defense shined again tonight, as they held the Fever to 65 points, the least amount of points scored against LA this season. On offense the Sparks tied their season-high in points with 98 and dished out 27 assists, which marked their season-high.

Los Angeles started off the first quarter with two baskets in the paint by Nneka Ogwumike, while Indiana scored the first six points of the quarter and jumped out to a 12-4 lead halfway through the first. Fever guard Tiffany Mitchell led all scorers in the quarter with eight points.

The second quarter began with a Chiney Ogwumike steal and score to pull the Sparks within two points. Los Angeles went on an 11-2 run to take their first lead of the game. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt hit a 3-pointer with three minutes left in the quarter to extend the Sparks lead to six points.

Defense shined in the first half for the Sparks as they gave up a season-low 31 points. Sisters Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike combined for 19 points and 8 rebounds through two quarters.

To start the third quarter Ruffin-Pratt made an and-one reverse layup to extend the lead to 15 points. The Sparks went on a 14-3 run in the first five minutes of the quarter. Los Angeles' lead ballooned to as many as 29 points.

The Sparks continued their stellar play with a pick and roll layup for Chiney Ogwumike to start the fourth quarter. Forward Maria Vadeeva went coast to coast for a left-handed layup to watch the lead increase to 30.

Vadeeva grabbed seven rebounds in the second half, which tied her career-high.

This matchup also marked the first game back for Sparks guard Riquna Williams, who was serving a 10-game suspension. Williams finished with 10 points and tied her season-high with five rebounds.

For the first time all season, all 12 members of the Sparks roster were available and all 12 players played.

Up next: The Sparks will look to extend their home winning streak to 11 games when they take on the Connecticut Sun on Sunday, Aug. 25 at 2 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet for the fifth annual #WeAreWomen game.

Sparks Notes - Nneka Ogwumike was in double figures for the 22nd time this season

- Los Angeles Sparks held Indiana to just 65 points, a season best defensively

- Tied their season-high of 98 points

- For the first time all season, all 12 Sparks players have played in a game

- Maria Vadeeva tied her career high with 7 rebounds

- Sparks dished out a season-high 27 assists

Fever Notes

- Indiana led by as many as eight points in the first quarter, but was outscored 29-13 in the second quarter and dropped its third consecutive game

- Kennedy Burke made her first career start, logging seven points in her homecoming game

- Kelsey Mitchell notched 14 points off the bench, going 4-of-8 from beyond the arc all in the fourth quarter

- Erica Wheeler played her 150th career game in her fifth year in the league


Coach Fisher on outrebounding Indiana by 14:

"We're trying to make an effort to make sure our bodies are having an inside position defensively, more times than not. We're really trying to make sure we're in the right defensive positions to start with. The last couple games it's been helpful to us. Indiana is a physical team, and I think we met that physicality for the most part. And we were really active as a team tonight. A lot of times it's not really strategy, 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, and it was a collective effort."

Coach Fisher on having full roster availability:

"It's a great thing to for the first time to be able to look down the bench and know that everyone's available, and regardless of the situation you can call someone's name and they can go into the game. It's a gift for us to have the roster we have and all the things we've gone through so far that's prepared us now."

Coach Fisher on Riquna's return:

"She's worked extremely hard to keep the level of conditioning and training, all day everyday. Making sure that when this day on the calendar showed up, she'd be ready to help her team. She had a few shots today that went in and came out, and it just didn't seem like it was going to be her night in terms of shooting. But with Riquna, there's a level of competitiveness and toughness that is important to have that we've missed. Even though statistically, she'll have nights where she maybe doesn't jump off the page, she competes really hard every possession and those are the players you want to have. We're happy to have her back for sure."

Candace Parker on this game versus last game:

"We were able to really maintain our focus. I think a lot of it is just making sure that we are playing every position, doesn't matter the score. But we definitely have to correct our starts. I think the starters have to do a better job of coming out and not getting down as early as we did even in the last four or five games, it's been like that."

Candace Parker on playing in playoff at STAPLES:

"We have to win on the road to be able to play at home, I think that's what it comes down to. We have one more home game and we have three straight away games and have to take care of business on the road to be able to enjoy playing at home."

Chiney Ogwumike on if we are the team to beat in playoffs:

"No, I think we are the LA Sparks and you have to deal with us. That's just how our mindset is, we're not out here comparing ourselves to other teams. We're trying to be the best version of ourselves and when we are that we feel like we can win any game. So we don't worry about others, we just focus on ourselves, defensively, offensively what we need to do. I think we're finally getting our identity, we're finding our voice, we're holding each other accountable and that's why you're seeing a complete game."

Pokey Chatman on the difference between the first and second halves:

"29 points off of our turnovers. And I always want to give credit to the opposition, but you can't dribble out of bounds, you can't turn it over on the inbounds when the team is not pressing you. It's those unforced ones. You can't do that with any team, let alone an LA team that's played well at home and is trying to clinch a spot in the playoffs."

Pokey Chatman on Indiana's defense and rebounding:

"[The Sparks] had 52 paint points... It's not supposed to be easy. We could live with the ones in the first half when it was an airball and blocked shot and it fell in someone's hands. Those happen two to three times again. It's the ones where you're being out-physicaled, it's the ones where you have to come over because you get beat by dribble penetration. You have to help... I just thought the grit and work areas we failed in tonight."

Kelsey Mitchell on the Fever's execution against the Sparks:

"We have to stay focused and we have to do that in the game for 40 minutes. As of late we haven't been doing that. So it's harder with a veteran team like [the Sparks]. It just makes it more difficult and we have to stick to principles."

Kelsey Mitchell on adjustments for Indiana's next game:

"It takes a lot of heart. We've got to be able to step up our pride and not bow down to anyone. Just take every game and play as hard as possible."

Erica Wheeler on takeaways for guard play against the Sparks:

"Ball pressure. We need to have better ball pressure. It's LA. They're a good team. They've got everybody back so they played well tonight."

Erica Wheeler on how the Fever can keep momentum going for 40 minutes:

"Just staying aggressive and just sticking to the scheme on defense, just running plays and executing. I think we can do better than [what we did tonight]."

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