Los Angeles Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike pulls in a rebound next to Minnesota Lynx’s Rebekkah Brunson in this file photo from 2016 (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nneka Ogwumike scored 19 points to lead five starters in double figures, helping the Los Angeles Sparks opened defense of their WNBA championship with a 79-66 victory over the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the semifinals.
Candace Parker added 15 points while playing with five fouls. Ogwumike overcame four fouls. Chelsea Gray had 13 points, Odyssey Sims 12 and Alana Beard 11.
Leilani Mitchell led the Mercury with 19 points and made five 3-pointers, both career playoff highs. Brittney Griner added 18 points before fouling out with 4:44 left in the game. Diana Taurasi went 2 of 10 from the floor for a career playoff low six points.
After trailing much of the first half, the Sparks pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring Phoenix 14-6 to lead 56-48.
Things got testy with 28 seconds left in the period. Phoenix’s Emma Cannon and the Sparks’ Essence Carson were called for double technicals after exchanging words. Before that, Phoenix’s Camille Little was called for a blocking foul, with Parker on the floor with her legs in the air and her arms protecting her face.
At Minneapolis, Seimone Augustus scored 24 points and Sylvia Fowles added 18 to help the Lynx roll to a 101-81 victory over the Mystics.
Augustus made 11 of 17 shots and the Lynx looked plenty sharp after a week off and playing in an unfamiliar arena. The Lynx will play all of their playoff games at the University of Minnesota’s Williams Arena after playing the regular season at Xcel Energy Center, home of the Minnesota Wild.
Elena Delle Donne had 17 points for the Mystics, who had a quick turnaround after beating the Liberty in New York on Sunday. After setting a playoff record with nine 3-pointers in the victory over New York on Sunday, Mystics guard Kristi Toliver scored just three points on 1-for-7 shooting.
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