Midway through the third quarter, the Los Angeles Sparks looked lethargic. They were slow on defense, sloppy on offense, and unable to match the pace of the Connecticut Sun as they trailed by as many as 11.
Then Te’a Cooper came into the game and completely changed the energy for the Sparks on both ends of the floor. She was active and simply played hard, even if that resulted in her fair share of mistakes, but Cooper made enough winning plays to stay on the court the rest of the way for the final 16 minutes as L.A. eventually won 80-76.
Cooper scored eight straight points during that run in the third quarter, two 3-pointers and a lay-up, to help the Sparks put up 27 in the period after only scoring 32 in the entire first half. She ended the game with 14 points and six rebounds to go along with her six turnovers, but she was a team-high plus-12 in her 21 minutes.
While the Sparks rookie guard had arguably her most impactful game, L.A.’s veteran point guard was at her finest as well. Chelsea Gray, fresh off announcing a new voting initiative earlier today, was the lone Spark to keep L.A. in the game early on. She had 10 first-quarter points and was in attack mode throughout. She made double-digit field goals for the first time all season, including five buckets in the paint and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. The lone blemish on Gray’s 27-point performance was her first missed free throw of 2020.
This was the third straight game that the Sparks have had to rally from a double-digit deficit in the second half. L.A. tightened the screws on defense late, limiting the Sun to a 13-point fourth quarter. The Sparks also forced 23 turnovers and scored 27 points off those miscues to get going when their halfcourt offense stagnated. The scoreline may not have looked so bad early had Connecticut not made five first-half threes, essentially their season-average for a full game, but the math evened out later as the Sun only hit two triples in the second half.
This is L.A.’s eighth straight win, keeping the Sparks tied with the Aces for second place in the WNBA standings, just a half game behind the Storm for first overall. It wasn’t pretty, and games against Connecticut generally never are. However, L.A. can’t afford to be so careless with the ball and inattentive on the defensive glass. The Sparks had enough energy to complete a comeback this time, but they have three more games over the next five days. They’ll need to clean up those mistakes soon.