Aces seize control in second half to beat short-handed Sparks

When asked how the Sparks would prepare for the defending champion Las Vegas Aces, Layshia Clarendon answered with their fists.

The veteran guard held her in the air and ejected her.

“Take the fight to them,” Clarendon said.

Undermanned and appearing inferior to the championship favorites, the Sparks struggled by a lot 94-85 loss at the Arena on Thursday and provided an impressive endorsement for the rebuild of first-year coach Curt Miller early in the season.

Last year, the Sparks (1-1) would have failed in such a one-sided duel, especially without star Nneka Ogwumike, who missed the game due to someone not suffering from COVID-19. Now, just two games into Miller’s tenure, the Sparks look like a revived franchise.

Against a team that won their season opener by 41 points, the Sparks landed the first blow. Acting Aces coach Natalie Nakase, who led the bench in the second game of Becky Hammon’s two-game suspension, called a time-out less than three minutes into the game when the Sparks’ teeming defense forced two early turnovers and with 9: 4 took the lead.

When the Aces (2-0) scored their first goal and reduced the Sparks’ 12-point lead to four with 2:13 to go in the second quarter, the Sparks hit back with eight straight points, including five from Chiney Ogwumike.

Ogwumike led the Sparks with 19 points. Guard Lexie Brown had 15 points on six shots from nine, including a perfect five-of-five in the first half. The Sparks forced ten turnovers in the first half and, through mistakes by the Aces, scored 13 points en route to a 10-point lead at halftime.

But when reigning MVP A’ja Wilson got going in the third quarter with eight points, the Aces took control, but the Sparks never let the lead grow beyond 10.

Wilson finished the game with 19 points and 13 rebounds after starting from the field twice for ten. Jackie Young, who won a gold medal in 3×3 basketball with teammate Kelsey Plum in Tokyo, led the Aces with 30 points. Former Sparks stars Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray returned to the Arena at ages 10 and 16, respectively.

After Parker shocked the league by joining the defending champion as a free agent, the Aces were instantly considered the title favorite in the WNBA’s superteam era. Across the coast, New York is chasing its first championship with Breanna Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot, Sabrina Ionescu and Jonquel Jones.

But New York’s debut failed in the opening weekend with a 80-64 loss to the Washington Mystics. The one-sided result proved that early-season hype isn’t enough to win games.

“It’s fun to watch, but like we always say, you don’t win on paper,” Miller said this week. “Paper never wins. … It’s not the most talented teams that win championships in this league, it’s the healthiest teams.”

The Sparks still have a long way to go before they reach full health. Point guard Jasmine Thomas, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament with the Connecticut Sun, has resumed contact practice but has yet to get to five-a-side practice. Azurá Stevens, the Sparks’ No. 1 free-agent signing, is further behind with a nagging back injury, Miller said this week.

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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