|7:00 PM PT8:00 PM MT9:00 PM CT10:00 PM ET2:00 GMT10:00 7:00 PM MST9:00 PM EST6:00 UAE (+1)04:0022:00 ET9:00 PM CTNaN:� , September 12, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California Attendance: 7,963
Sparks open title defense with win vs. Mercury
(TSX / STATS) -- All five starters scored in double figures as the Los Angeles Sparks opened up defense of their WNBA title with a 79-66 win over the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday in the opener of a semifinal series at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Nneka Ogwumike led Los Angeles with 19 points and nine rebounds. Candace Parker overcame a freak pregame injury, struggled early, but finished with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Los Angeles' Chelsea Gray bullied her way to 13 points and six assists, while Odyssey Simms and Alana Beard tossed in 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Leilani Mitchell led the Mercury with 19 points.
Brittney Griner, the league's regular-season leading scorer, scored 18 points, but it wasn't enough as the Sparks took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
The game and possibly the series and a trip to the WNBA Finals took an awkward turn, literally, for the defending champion Sparks during the pregame shootaround when Parker rolled her ankle.
She went back to the locker room and had her ankle heavily taped and came out to play. Parker limped through the first half and was in visible pain. Even after connecting on a 3-pointer, Parker could be seen cursing under her breath.
She was held to five points in the first half and committed three fouls. Her movement in the second half was more fluid as the Sparks took control with six consecutive third-quarter points and never were threatened.
After a hard-fought, physical first half that saw 24 personal fouls called, Los Angeles' defense rose to the occasion when it was most needed, holding the Mercury to just six points.
At the center of the Sparks' defense was Beard, who earlier in the day was named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year. She was charged with guarding the league's all-time leading scorer, Diana Taurasi.
In 33 minutes, Taurasi was held to 2-of-10 shooting from the field and six points.
Phoenix, which defeated the Connecticut Sun on Sunday and traveled 13 hours on Monday to get to Los Angeles, seemed to tire in the second half.
While the Phoenix offense was out of sync in the third, Los Angeles and Parker were warming up. Her 23-foot, 3-point jumper gave the Sparks a 61-50 lead with just under nine minutes to go.
A Taurasi jumper cut the deficit to eight, but the Sparks answered with an Ogwumike jumper and a pair of free throws from Sims to extend the lead back to double digits.
The first half was tightly contested with six ties and five lead changes. The Mercury pounded the ball into the paint, and Griner responded with 14 first-half points.
Mitchell complimented the inside game scoring 10 first-half points from outside.
Sims carried the load for the Sparks with 10 first-half points.
Game 2 will be played Thursday night at Staples Center, while Game 3 is scheduled for Sunday at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.
Updated September 13, 2017