Jantel Lavender continues to show why she’s a formidable force for the Los Angeles Sparks.
Two records were set at the Staples Center last night—Jantel Lavender scored a season-high 24 points, and Los Angeles set a franchise attendance record of over 19,000 at the Staples Center.
The Los Angeles Sparks (12-18) defeated the San Antonio Stars (7-23), 60-52, to end the season series with a 4-1 advantage. With the win, the Sparks improved its home record against Western Conference opponents to 6-4 for the season.
“We played team defense. We rotated when we needed to, but Jantel [Lavender] still played very well,” Jia Perkins said. “We just had to figure out what to do with her before it got too late. ”
Lavender led all scorers with her recorded season-high, and it was her seventh game scoring 20 or more points in 30 games played.
“It was just cutting without the ball. Just planning to go to the basket, get offensive rebounds, hit open shots from behind the pick-and-roll,” Lavender said.
The Sparks got their red-hot start in the first minute of the game with a 6-0 run. Guard Kristi Toliver contributed to four of those six points and rounded out the first quarter with three three-pointers.
“I just shot when I was open,” Toliver said. “Nothing was set by anyone. Teammates found me in the right spot, and I just knocked down shots.”
Los Angeles’ momentum cooled off with a low-scoring second half. The Sparks started the game shooting 67 percent and towards the end of the third quarter, they were only shooting 34 percent. Their biggest lead in the game came after Lavender hit a pair of free throws at the end of the third quarter, bringing Los Angeles to a 47-36 advantage over San Antonio.
Sparks Coach Brian Agler credited the win to his players’ toughness and ability to fight through the injuries.
“We have a lot of players playing big minutes,” Coach Agler said. “We are doing a good job, especially Jantel, [Lavender] who has played 77 minutes out of the last 80 over the past two games. Our team has found a sense of mental toughness and a sense of resiliency, which a winning team has to have in order to win.”
The Stars end its season-series against the Sparks with a 1-4 losing record. Despite the loss, the Stars only turned the ball over 11 times compared to the Sparks 14. San Antonio also outrebounded Los Angeles 45-33.
“Honestly I think it was one of those days we just missed shots,” Coach Dan Hughes said. “The memory is we got some things in the lane, we got some open looks, and the ball moved decently. It was just one of those days we didn’t convert very well.”
Sunday night’s game marks Los Angeles’ first win at home following nine games on the road, and they now have four games remaining in the regular season. The Stars’ loss eliminates them from playoff contention, marking only the second time in nine seasons the team will not advance to the postseason.
The Sparks return to the Staples Center Thursday to play the Washington Mystics, and San Antonio will meet the Connecticut Sun at home on Friday.