LOS ANGELES – Nneka Ogwumike scored 17 points to lead five double-figure scorers and pace the Los Angeles Sparks to a 98-65 WNBA victory over the Indiana Fever on Thursday night. The Sparks shot 50 percent from the floor and turned 21 Fever turnovers into 29 points while becoming the fourth WNBA team to clinch a berth in the upcoming playoffs.
Winning for the 11th time in 13 games at STAPLES Center, Los Angeles (17-10) kept its hold on fourth place in the WNBA standings. Indiana (9-19) lost its third straight and slipped into a 10th-place tie with Dallas, now 4 ½ games behind idle Phoenix for the league’s last playoff spot in eighth place.
Los Angeles took control with a 22-4 run sandwiched around halftime and stretched the lead to 29 by the end of the third period. After Indiana led 26-25, it was all Sparks with L.A. taking the lead moments later and outscoring the Fever 56-24 over the second and third quarters.
The Sparks enjoyed their largest lead at 92-54 with under three minutes to play. The Sparks got 15 points from Chiney Ogwumike and 11 from Tierra Ruffin-Pratt. Riquna Williams and Chelsea Gray each added 10.
Indiana got 14 points off the bench from Kelsey Mitchell, all in the second half and 12 in the fourth quarter. Each of her baskets in the fourth was a 3-pointer, after Indiana had shot 0-of-8 beyond the arc through three periods. Candice Dupree scored 10 for the Fever, all in the first half. Rookie center Teaira McCowan had six points and seven rebounds.
While McCowan made her 10th start of the season, fellow rookie Kennedy Burke made the first pro start of her career while playing in front of a hometown crowd and former teammates and coaches from UCLA. She finished with seven points.
The Sparks broke open a tight game in the final moments of the first half, turning what was a 35-30 lead into a 43-31 halftime advantage on the strength of 3-pointers in the final 16 seconds by Ruffin-Pratt and Williams.
Sparked by its new lineup and the post presence of McCowan, Indiana scored the game’s first six points and led 18-14 after one quarter. McCowan picked up her third foul early in the second period, however, and played only nine minutes of the first half.
Indiana continues a West Coast road swing at Seattle on Sunday.