One team had their former MVP. The other did not. The result was as expected.
Ogwumike, sparks“The leading scorer and player with 18.8 points and 7.2 rebounds was added to the team’s injury report due to non-COVID illness approximately 75 minutes before kickoff. The 11-year veteran started her seventh All-Star Game on Sunday and dunked the weekend, but was not seen at practice on Monday and missed the shootout on Tuesday morning.
Interim coach Fred Williams said Ogwumike plays day in and day out but hopes to get her back on Thursday against the Chicago Sky at home.
“I need her on Thursday, that’s for sure,” Williams said with a low chuckle. “We missed her tonight.”
Without a team captain, the Sparks, the second-highest scoring team in the WNBA, lost on paint, 40–26. Liz Cambage scored eight points and three rebounds on three-of-nine shooting while the Sparks trailed 35–23 on rebounds.
“Nneka is our engine, she’s like a silent killer and her IQ is very high,” said Chini Ogwumike, who scored 10 points and 10 rebounds in her second double-double in three games. “Without her… that comfort zone that we’ve been in for a long time has been a bit disturbed.”
Delle Donne, who has been recovering from back surgery for the past two seasons, played in Los Angeles for the first time since 2019 and showed a lack of a team. The 2019 MVP converted a corner three-pointer with 5:49 left in fourth to thwart a comeback attempt after the Sparks (10–13) cut the deficit to five. Delle Donne and Natasha Cloud (21 points and nine assists) played five-for-five combined from three-point range in the fourth quarter.
The Mystics (15-10) have improved to 12-4 this season with Delle Donne.
“Whether it’s part-time, full-time, quarter-day, the league is better off when it’s there,” Chinay Ogwumika said, “and we’re better than the competition taking on the challenge.”
Sparks guard Brittney Sykes returned after a four-game absence due to COVID-19 with 16 points on the bench.
Sykes, who spent a week in isolation at Christy Toliver’s home in Dallas after testing positive for the coronavirus on July 1 ahead of a game against the Dallas Wings, got off to a fast start with 12 points in the first half. She added two assists and three interceptions.
Kathy Lou Samuelson scored 16 points on six of eight shots, including four three-pointers.