Stars hang tough but eventually fall to Parker, Sparks

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Nneka Ogwumike #30 of the Los Angeles Sparks shoots the ball against the San Antonio Stars on July 28, 2017 at the AT&T Center. (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Stars put up a good fight but would eventually fall 85-73 to the Los Angeles Sparks in front of 5,777 fans at the AT&T Center on Friday night.

Like Tuesday, the Stars fell behind early. The Silver and Black trailed by ten points after the first quarter, shooting just 31 percent in the opening ten minutes. San Antonio held tough from the second quarter on, but key mistakes would be their undoing down the stretch.

Trailing 70-61 with eight minutes to go in regulation, Stars guard Kelsey Plum converted a three point play to cut the deficit to just six points. However, a missed defensive assignment saw Sparks guard Chelsea Gray hit a 20-footer and a Plum turnover saw the Sparks build their lead back up to 14, 75-61.

“I thought that we fought every possession, which is key,” Stars head coach Vickie Johnson said. “I think it was two things that hurt us; turnovers and missing key moments. We had five turnovers in the first half and in the second half we had seven. I think that hurt us. But everybody fought hard.”

Kayla McBride led the Stars in scoring with 20 points to go along with five rebounds. Alex Montgomery added a season-high 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while Isabelle Harrison chipped in 14 points and six rebounds in the loss. Kelsey Plum had 10 points off the bench for San Antonio, who lost their second straight.

While allowing Candace Parker and Odyssey Sims to get their points, the Stars had no answer for the Sparks bench. Los Angeles’ bench outscored San Antonio’s 24-18 and Jantel Lavender scored 18, including a back breaking three-point play. The Stars would never get closer than three points again following that play.

San Antonio struggled in transition all night long as Los Angeles had the edge in fast break points 22-9 and in the paint 46-32. The Stars committed 12 turnovers, including eight in the third quarter. That would spark a 8-2 run by Los Angeles to build a 16 point lead, their biggest of the night.

“Every day we are working on things to get better,” McBride said of her team’s growth. “Everybody is taking steps all year. They might not be the steps that have helped us win games, because that takes time, but the steps that we have taken are going to add up and click one day.”

Odyssey Sims led the Sparks with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Candace Parker recorded a triple-double, posting 11 points with 17 rebounds and 11 assists, becoming the sixth player in WNBA history to do so.

“When you have the weapons around you like I do, it shouldn’t have been this long,” Parker said of her triple-double. “Jantel [Lavender] shot the ball really well tonight and played amazing. The defense is designed to stop Nneka and they couldn’t so it made our job easier.”

Reigning WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike added 11 points and six rebounds, while Elena Beard chipped in 12 points for Los Angeles (16-6), who are three games behind the Minnesota Lynx for the best record in the league.

Los Angeles shot 55 percent for the game and outscored San Antonio 25-19 in the final quarter, including a 7-2 start. Parker and Beard combined for 23 points and 23 rebounds, proving too much for a young San Antonio squad.

“We helped ourselves by not allowing second shots or turning the ball over ourselves,” Los Angeles head coach Brian Agler said. “Those things help your defense. I think everyone is starting to buy into our big lineup. We are getting to that level you have to have as you advance into the playoffs. We want to keep getting better if we can.”

  • Game notes: Alex Montgomery’s 15 first half points were the most points she’s scored this season and the most in a half for her career. San Antonio held Los Angeles to an opponent low three offensive rebounds and three second chance points.

Up next: The Stars are now 3-20 on the season and will return to the court on Sunday afternoon when they travel to Phoenix to face the Mercury at 5 p.m. inside Talking Stick Resort Arena.

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