Sparks shoot lights out to top Sky
They come from the land of glitz and glamour, so the Los Angeles Sparks know all about bling, bling and more bling.
On Saturday night, they brought the real gaudy kind to Chicago, in the form of an outrageously sparkly shooting percentage.
The Sparks, playing without injured Naperville native and star forward Candace Parker (knee), hit 56 percent of their shots, 58 percent of them while building a 16-point halftime lead, en route to an 88-84 victory in front of 5,909 at the Allstate Arena.
"Credit to them, they're a great offensive team," said Sky reserve guard Erin Thorn of the Sparks, who lead the WNBA in 3-point shooting percentage at a sizzling 45 percent.
"But we were giving them a lot of open looks. And when you get a team confident to start a game, the basket gets big, the ball gets small, and everything starts going in."
The Sparks, 7-10 after snapping a four-game losing streak, were extremely on target from 3-point range. They hit 56 percent of their long-range shots (5 of 9) in the first half as they coasted into the locker room with a 51-35 halftime lead.
It was the perfect storm for the Sky, which was foiled not only by the Sparks' hot shooting but by its own defensive lapses, a shortcoming that was uncharacteristic of most games this season.
The Sky, which picked up its third loss in four games and dropped to 9-11, entered the game as one of the best defensive teams, holding opponents to a WNBA-low 40.5 percent field-goal percentage.
"They're good shooters, credit them," Sky coach Pokey Chatman said of the Sparks. "But I'm also a good shooter if I can catch it, set my feet, fix the ball, read it. They were wide open. That was their good offense but also our lack of discipline defensively."
Defensive discipline improved in the second half.
After rolling up 51 first-half points, the Sparks managed just 37 in the second half. Individual players also were kept in much better check. For instance, forward DeLisha Milton-Jones led Los Angeles with 19 points but scored only 2 after halftime.
But 20 minutes of basketball isn't enough for most teams, let alone the young Sky, Chatman warns.
"We lost the game in the first half," Chatman said. "We're not good enough to play 20-minute games. We're not good enough to come back from (huge deficits). We don't have the depth. We don't have the experience. We're not that team. We have to play hard early. We have to play ugly."
Two pretty parts of the Sky's effort came from the bench. Thorn scored a team-high 17 points, hitting 5 of 6 of her 3-pointers. Forward Shay Murphy, brought in this week on a seven-day contract, scored 10 points and pulled down 7 rebounds.
Chatman said she will sign Murphy to another seven-day contract starting Sunday.
"I was excited for the opportunity to be able to play and learn from someone like Pokey," Murphy said. "I'm the type of player that I just want to help the team out and do whatever I can."
The Sky also got 16 points from both Epiphanny Prince and Sylvia Fowles. A total of five players scored in double figures for the Sparks, including former Sky guard Kristi Toliver (12).
•Patricia Babcock McGraw, who covers the WNBA for the Daily Herald, also provides color commentary for Chicago Sky broadcasts.