Sparks Stave off Indiana Rally in Final Minutes

FeverBasketball.com Staff | July 28, 2014

LOS ANGELES – Nneka Ogwumike scored 21 points and eight rebounds to lead the Los Angeles Sparks to a 77-73 win over the Indiana Fever, Monday at Staples Center.

It was Ogwumike’s backdoor layup with 13.8 seconds remaining that staked the Sparks to a 75-72 lead. Indiana got a 3-point attempt from Briann January that fell off the mark, but Karima Christmas pulled down an offensive rebound and was fouled.

Christmas made her first foul shot with 6.1 seconds remaining, then intentionally missed the second as Indiana tried for the rebound and the win. When Ogwumike pulled down her final rebound, she was fouled immediately and iced the game with two more free throws.

In a game characterized by 16 lead changes and 8 ties, Indiana missed three free throws in the final five minutes that could have made a difference.

“I thought we should have won the game tonight,” said an emotional Lin Dunn after the Fever loss. “We didn’t finish the game. We didn’t do the little things you need to do to win a game in crunch-time.”

“When we had a chance to win, we made a defensive error, we missed rebounds and we missed free throws. You can’t do those things and expect to win on the road.”

The lead changed hands four times in the final four minutes, in fact, with Catchings scoring for a 68-67 lead and again at 72-71 with 2:19 remaining. A minute later though, Alana Beard’s jumper gave the Sparks the lead it never relinquished and set the stage for Ogwumike’s final four points of the contest.

The Sparks got 17 points from Beard, 13 from Jantel Lavender and 10 from Kristi Toliver as L.A. snapped a five-game home losing skid. Los Angeles (12-14) won its second straight game while sweeping the season series with the Fever (12-14). It was the Sparks’ second win under new coach Penny Toler.

Indiana was led by Catchings’ 16 points. Briann January contributed 12 and Christmas pitched in 11 off the bench. Erlana Larkins’ 10 points and 10 rebounds produced her eighth double-double of the season. She also matched a club record with her 12th game this season with double-figure rebounds.

Leading 54-53 after three periods, the Sparks got five straight points from Ogwumike for a 6-point lead, matching its largest of the game, but Indiana answered with five of the game’s next seven points coming from Lynetta Kizer. Layshia Clarendon tacked on a pair of free throws as Indiana mounted a 9-2 run to take back the lead, 62-61 with 6:25 remaining, on a turnaround from Erlana Larkins.

In a first half of runs, Indiana scored 10 unanswered points to command an early first quarter lead. The Fever closed the first quarter on a 10-4 run, but L.A. responded with a 16-4 sequence of its own to begin the second quarter. The Sparks outscored the Fever 20-8 in the second period and led 35-31 at intermission.

Indiana continues its West Coast road trip at Seattle on Thursday and Phoenix on Saturday.

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