The Connecticut Sun got a major monkey of their backs by winning their first road game of the season, 78-75, over the Los Angeles Sparks before 8,852 fans at the Staples Center on Friday night. Tina Charles led the Sun with a 26-point, 19-rebound effort—career highs in both categories—while Sandrine Gruda added 12 points and Kara Lawson chipped in with 11 points.
Tina Thompson led Los Angeles with 24 points, while Marie Ferdinand-Harris added 16 points and Noelle Quinn had 11 points for the Sparks, who were playing for the first time this season without center Candace Parker. The former Tennessee All-American, who in 2008 was named the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year and MVP, suffered a separated shoulder last Sunday vs. Minnesota and will miss the remainder of the season.
In Parker’s absence, Los Angeles head coach Jennifer Gillom opted to start a three-guard, two forward offense. And the strategy paid dividends for most of the contest. The Sparks led by one point, 19-18, after the first quarter, and took a 43-36 lead into the locker room at intermission.
After Thompson drained back-to-back treys midway through the third period, the Sparks led by 16 points, 57-41, with 6:29 left in the period. But Charles responded with a 15-foot jumper the next time down the court, and the Sun went off on what is becoming a signature six minute, 20-0 run fueled by Charles and Gruda who scored eight points each during the charge. By the time the DeLisha Milton-Jones broke the run with a layup, Connecticut had a 61-59 lead with 26.9 seconds remaining in the period.
But the game was far from over. Thompson’s two free throws with 3:37 to play gave the Sparks a 73-72 lead before Charles’ follow shot put the Sun up for good, 74-73, with 3:20 left.
With the win, the Connecticut improves to 7-3, one game behind first-place Atlanta in the WNBA Eastern Conference race. The Sparks fall to 3-8, and are 6.5 games behind first-place Seattle in the Western Conference.
The Sun now head for the desert where they will play Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday. Tip-off is slated for 6 p.m. ET.
- RUN SUN, RUN: The Sun have shown the ability to be explosive this season, putting together several long scoring runs. Besides Friday’s 20-0 outburst, Connecticut’s season has featured a 26-6 run spanning 5:10 vs. Indiana, another 15-5 spanning 3:01 vs. the Fever, a 17-5 run at the end of the first half and a 17-4 run over a five-minute stretch in the third quarter vs. Minnesota, a 25-5 outburst covering a span of 5:45 vs. Washington, and a 26-7 run that busted open a 12-12 tie in the season opener vs. Chicago.
- For the first 10 games of the season, Candace Parker had been averaging 20.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per contest. Both were higher than her career average in those categories (16.8 and 9.7 respectively).
- According to the Sparks’ media relations department, Parker will likely miss the world championships in September.
- In the first quarter, Tina Thompson became just the second player in WNBA history to score 6,000 career points. Former Sparks’ star Lisa Leslie is the league’s current all-time scoring leader with 6,263 points.