Los Angeles, Calif. - The Los Angeles Sparks used a fourth quarter push Tuesday to put away the Seattle Storm, 65-57, and climb out of last place in the WNBA's Western Conference.
Four Storm players helped the team outscore their hosts in the third period, cutting their six-point halftime lead to one by the end. The Sparks responded with a fourth quarter run that left Seattle scoreless for long stretches, while their lead swelled to as many as 13 points by the final minute.
Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike each had 20 points and 11 rebounds for LA, and Parker also had seven assists and four blocked shots.
Temeka Johnson was the lone double-digit scorer for the Storm, with 11 points. Seattle, which was held to a season-low point total, takes over last place in the West.
Sparks coach Carol Ross said she chewed out the team after the third quarter, and challenged them to step up. She was pleased with their response.
"We showed great toughness," Ross said. "It’s great to win, but I loved how we won. We were resilient, tough, and battled through fatigue. We finished all the way to the end and kept a positive attitude until the end. We never doubted we would win it."
"To me this was our best game (so far this season) because we had to dig deep down. We were not good defensively and they were very good offensively. They took a chewing and made some adjustments, and were able to shut that down in the fourth quarter."
For Ross and her players, the game was a sign that they are getting back on track after a surprising string of losses. The Sparks had won only one game this month until last week's victory over the Shock.
"I think this team found out a lot about themselves today, because we didn't do a lot of things well still, but we were tougher and found ways to win," Ross said. "That's what great teams do: they find another way and dig deep down. That's what I was proud of."
"We're happy about this game, but you've got to do things repeatedly to get that swagger and confidence we want to get. So we've got to back that up and come back the same way."
Storm coach Brian Agler gave credit to Los Angeles.
"I just thought for the most part, they played with a lot more urgency, toughness, and focus than we did," he said. "We did make a run, we sort of hung around for most of the game, had our chances to take the lead, and never could do that. That being said I think the game was played the way Los Angeles wanted it to be played, and they took full advantage of it."
The Sparks who have started games slowly of late, scored the first bucket against Seattle and pushed the lead to ten by the middle of the first quarter. They out-rebounded the visitors, 37-24, and outpaced them in all other statistical categories except turnovers. The Sparks had a season-high 23 turnovers in Sunday's loss to the Stars; Tuesday they turned the ball over only 11 times.
"We talked about turnovers and wanted to make sure we didn't have as many as last game," Ogwumike said. "It's really important to take care of the ball."
It was Ogwumike's fifth double-double of the season, and Parker's fourth.
The Sparks next travel to Tulsa for a Saturday match up.