8:00 PM ET, August 31, 2013
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
SAN ANTONIO -- Although San Antonio is depleted by injuries and on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, Los Angeles coach Carol Ross warned her team not to take the Silver Stars lightly.
Nneka Ogwumike took her coach's words to heart, especially after a lethargic first half, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in leading the Sparks to an 80-67 victory Saturday night.
It was Ogwumike's eighth double-double of the season, one more than Candace Parker, who added 12 points and 11 rebounds as the Sparks won their third straight.
"San Antonio always gives us a fight," Ogwumike said. "It's never easy playing here or playing against them. We knew what to expect. They just came off road win (74-65 at Tulsa on Friday) and coach mentioned they were undefeated in back-to-backs, so we didn't want one of those to be one of ours."
Kristi Toliver added 15 points and seven assists for Los Angeles (21-8), which remained a game behind Minnesota for the top seed in the Western Conference.
Jia Perkins had 25 points, including 15 in the second half, for San Antonio (11-19). Jayne Appel had 10 points and 12 rebounds and Danielle Adams added 10 points.
Ogwumike dominated early in the third with eight points, two rebounds, a block and had an assist. The assist came when she found Lindsey Harding cutting to the basket for a layup. Harding followed it with a 3-pointer that gave Los Angeles a 52-39 lead with 5 minutes remaining.
"We definitely turned up the intensity in the third quarter," Ogwumike said. "I think it all started with our rebounding. They had 10 'O' boards in the first half, and we wanted to tune that down."
The Sparks held a 21-17 rebounding edge in the second half, including a 9-5 advantage on the offensive glass.
San Antonio started the game 1 for 11, with their lone basket coming on Adams' 3-pointer with 8:15 left in the first quarter.
Coming off Friday's game in Tulsa, the Silver Stars struggled early without point guards Danielle Robinson and Davellyn Whyte, who both were out with leg injuries.
"The back-to-backs was not the issue," San Antonio coach Dan Hughes said. "It was the small numbers. You take Davellyn Whyte out and you can't play. If we just had one more player and Davellyn was able to play yesterday, but she wasn't able to go today so we're down to eight players. You could see it in Shenise Johnson as we were leaning on her for so many minutes that they made some plays where they didn't have legs in some cases."
The Sparks took a 13-4 lead following a 10-0 run keyed by a two steals and a turnover.
Parker's layup with 1:27 remaining in the first quarter put Los Angeles ahead 19-8.
"L.A. is a good basketball team," Hughes said. "Give them a lot of credit from the standpoint of their ability to attack you in the full court and half court. They kept coming , they're healthy and they're fresh right now. They're an impressive team."
The Silver Stars' loss clinched a playoff spot for fourth-place Seattle, which has a four-game lead over San Antonio with four games remaining for both teams, but holds the tiebreaker between the teams.
San Antonio can still catch third-place Phoenix for the West's last playoff berth. The Mercury, who beat Connecticut, lead the Silver Stars by five games with six games remaining. San Antonio, which has four games left, leads the season series 2-1 and the teams play twice more.
The Silver Stars, who have made six straight playoff appearances, have struggled with injuries, including season-ending knee operations to All-Stars Sophia Young and Becky Hammon. Also, Robinson, named an All-Star this season, has missed the past month with a sprained right knee.