10:00 PM ET, July 1, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES -- Jamierra Faulkner knew she would need to take on more responsibility for the Chicago Sky after Courtney Vandersloot went down with a knee injury.
Faulkner proved she was ready Tuesday night, scoring a season-high 27 points to lead the Sky in a 90-83 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks. Epiphanny Prince had 15 points, all in the second half, for Chicago (8-8).
Faulkner scored 17 points in the second half, including a jumper at the top of the key with 53 seconds remaining to give the Sky a 80-75 lead. The Sparks missed their next two shots, and Prince made five free throws in the final 36 seconds as Chicago ended a six-game losing streak in Los Angeles.
It was a clutch performance by Faulkner, a rookie who was nervous for her first career start after the Sky announced Monday that Vandersloot, the WNBA's assists leader, is out six to 10 weeks with a sprained knee.
"I'm taking on a big role," Faulkner said. "It's a big change because of the different things that I have to learn. Courtney Vandersloot has been helping me a lot. She's been talking to me every timeout and in practice, so I have the support that I need."
Chicago also was without leading scorer Elena Delle Donne (Lyme disease) but the Sky outrebounded the Sparks 39-24 and outscored them in the paint 44-32. Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said she had to settle Faulkner down before the game and liked her poise.
"It was huge," Chatman said. "I said, 'I don't need you to be Vandersloot tonight. You need to be Jay.' ... She had some costly turnovers but she never just hung her head. I think every time she had a critical error, she shook it off and got right back into it. Hats off to her."
Nneka Ogwumike had 26 points and six rebounds to lead the Sparks (6-9), and Candace Parker had 22 points. Both pointed to Chicago's 14 second-chance points as the difference, and Parker said she was concerned with the Sparks' defensive identity.
"We're almost halfway through the season, and we're still having the same problems," Parker said. "We'll figure it out, and at some point we've got to sit down and figure out what the problem is because we can't keep saying we're going to figure it out."
Prince and Faulkner made back-to-back 3-pointers out of a timeout to give Chicago a 76-70 lead, and the Sparks got no closer than three points down the rest of the way.
Chicago took a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter after it outscored Los Angeles 23-13 in the third, the Sparks' lowest-scoring third quarter this season. Los Angeles guard Kristi Toliver played her second game since she rejoined the team from a stint with the Slovakian national team but went 2-for-10 from the field.
The Sparks had won three of their previous four games to gain traction but Ogwumike didn't want her team to take the loss as a step back.
"It should feel like one, but we shouldn't treat it like one," Ogwumike said. "It's definitely one that we need to reflect upon because this should not have happened. But it happened, and we have to gear up."
Ogwumike had 16 points and Parker 13 in the first half to help give the Sparks a 44-41 lead at halftime.
Chicago's only other win here came on July 1, 2007.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul attended the game.