INDIANAPOLIS – The visiting Los Angeles Sparks used a 21-3 run at the start of the third quarter to put away the Indiana Fever, 90-84, on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Sparks entered the third leading 45-35 before a dominant quarter that saw them extend their lead to as many as 30, 70-40. The visitors forced Indiana into seven turnovers in the period, which matched Indiana’s field goals in the quarter (7-of-16).
“It’s gonna take all of us and it wasn’t nearly enough of us tonight,” said Fever head coach Pokey Chatman. “The veteran players with the high minutes have to bring it because they can and they should – it’s their responsibility. I include myself with that, it’s us together.”
Indiana made a huge run of their own in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Sparks 32-14, including 29 points from the Fever bench. That group was able to cut the deficit to six, but unfortunately it was too little too late as the Sparks hung on to secure the win on the road.
Indiana got a whopping 50 points from its reserves, including a season-high 11 from Shenise Johnson, 10 from Stephanie Mavunga, nine from Tiffany Mitchell and eight from Paris Kea. Starting point guard Erica Wheeler shared team scoring honors with Johnson.
“We were hungry,” said Johnson, who shot 3-of-5 from the floor and contributed five rebounds. “We don’t get an opportunity to play as often and we put a lot of pressure on the starters and they just didn’t have it tonight. It was important for us to have their back and to get more playing time. It was just energy and effort – a different bounce.”
A big reason for the Spark’s success was the trio of Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike, and Chelsea Gray. Nneka scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Sparks, while adding six rebounds and six steals. Chiney poured in 19 points and grabbed nine boards. Chelsea Gray added 15 points and six assists in the win.
That trio was dominant for Los Angeles in the first quarter, scoring all 23 points for the Sparks in the opening frame. The visitors led by as many as seven, 18-11, before Indiana made a brief run that included a McCowan put-back bucket to cut it to 18-15. Gray hit a 3-point buzzer-beater to give the Sparks a 23-17 lead at the end of the first.
Wheeler moved into 3rd place on the Fever career assist charts (471), surpassing Katie Douglas (470) on a dish that led to a Candice Dupree basket late in the first period.
Things remained close early in the second quarter as the teams traded baskets. Wheeler hit a free throw to cut the Los Angeles lead to 34-28. The Sparks then went on a 7-0 run including a 3-pointer by Marina Mabrey that gave the visitors a 13-point lead, 41-28, their largest of the first half.
Mabrey was the lone player to score in double digits off the bench for LA, chipping in 10 points.
Natalie Achonwa got a tough basket and the foul inside in the waning moments of the second quarter. The Fever starting center completed the three-point play as Indiana entered the half time break trailing 45-35.
The Sparks came out at a blistering pace to start the third quarter, as a Wheeler 3-pointer was the only resistance on a 21-3 run by the visitors to open the second half. Indiana trailed 76-52 to begin the fourth.
The Fever will meet the Connecticut Sun on Sunday afternoon (4:00 p.m.) for the third game of Indiana’s current four-game homestand.