Sun stun Sparks, 73-72
Los Angeles — The Connecticut Sun played at second-place Los Angeles on Tuesday night, the favorite to win the WNBA title in the league's preseason general manager survey.
Sun starter Alyssa Thomas missed her eighth straight game due to a shoulder injury.
Fellow starter Courtney Williams missed her second straight game due to a personal issue.
Connecticut wasted a 20-point, second-quarter lead against the Sparks.
On a night where the one-win Indiana Fever could win at the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx (71-59), anything was possible.
“We knew they were going to go on a run at some point, and it’s tough, but I think we handled the adversity well,” Sun Rachel Banham said.
Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said of the win, “It was gutty. We took a big punch from them with their pressure (in the second half). They really extended their defense like they’re capable of doing. They’re one of the more premiere defensive teams in the league.
“We just stayed poised at the end, made some big plays, (and) got back to our basics of what we wanted to do against them.”
Ogwumike had 21 points, seven rebounds and two steals for the Sun (10-7), who clinched the season-series against the Sparks.
Banham scored 11 with six assists, Shekinna Stricklen had seven rebounds and reserve Alex Bentley had 10 points and four assists for Connecticut.
The Sun had lost six of their previous eight games since Thomas injured her shoulder during a 95-91 loss to the Washington Mystics on June 13. She watched from the bench Tuesday, while Williams wasn't with the team.
“We’ve (had) a lot of adversity,” Miller said. “We have not played great basketball without Alyssa since her injury. … (We’ve) just got to gut through this and survive.”
Candace Parker had 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals for Los Angeles (12-6). Nneka Ogwumike added 20 points and five rebounds.
The Sun led by as much as 37-17 with three minutes, 27 seconds left in the second quarter.
Los Angeles missed 14 of its first 18 shots and shot just 30 percent in the first half.
“We played much better in the second half,” Sparks’ head coach Brian Agler said, “but the tale of the game is how poorly we played in the first half. We just didn’t play at our standard. We had mistakes at both ends, and just enough for them to regain the lead (late).”
Nneka Ogwumike turned a layup into a three-point play with 27.9 seconds remaining to give Los Angeles a 72-71 lead.
Chiney Ogwumike answered on the other end for the game-winning basket.
“It was a Jas (Jasmine Thomas) read,” Chiney said. “We had an option for JJ (Jonquel Jones), an option for me, and an option for Jas, and I think the play just kind of got bottled up on the strong side.
“Jas is so unselfish, and I just wanted to have her back.”
Connecticut plays its third road game in five days on Thursday at the first-place Phoenix Mercury (Talking Stick Resort, 10 p.m.).
The Sun finish their road trip on Saturday at the Las Vegas Aces (Mandalay Bay Events, 10:30 p.m., WCCT-20). It will end a stretch in which Connecticut played 13 of 16 games away from home.
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