Surging Sparks on roll behind play of Ogwumike, Cambage

Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, right, drives to the basket past Dallas Wings forward Kayla Thornton during the second half of a WNBA basketball game Friday, July 1, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, right, drives to the basket past Dallas Wings forward Kayla Thornton during the second half of a WNBA basketball game Friday, July 1, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

AP

The Los Angeles Sparks have been on roll lately, battling their way to just below .500 after a slow start to the season.

Los Angeles (10-11) has won four of its past five games and a big reason why is the play of All-Star Nneka Ogwumike and free agent signee Liz Cambage.

“I’m happy we’re on a little streak and hope to keep it rolling in July,” Cambage said.

The 6-foot-8 Australian struggled for most of June but os playing much better during the Sparks’ recent run. She has scored in double figures the past four games — something she hadn’t done once since May 31.

During their current winning stretch, the Sparks earned the 500th win in franchise history. The most by any WNBA organization.

The Sparks have also had time over the last few weeks to adjust to interim coach Fred Williams, who took over for Derek Fisher when he was let go on June 7.

“Each game is a step in the right direction,” Ogwumike said, adding that the coaching changes have helped the team and players find their identity individually and collectively. “The coaching staff lets us understand what we’re great at.”

It also has helped that the Sparks have been able to play many of their games at home lately after starting the season with nine of 12 on the road.

“Looking at May, you just got to get to July,” Cambage said. “I was like if we could survive May it would be cool. …I’m proud for us staying together. That first month could have seen teams go the other way.”

Cambage is proving to be a solid complement to Ogwumike, who is having another stellar season. She’s averaging 18.8 points — tied for second most in her career.

The Sparks moved up three spots to No. 6 in the AP WNBA power poll this week.

POWER POLL

This week’s WNBA poll:

1. Chicago (15-5): The Sky have won five straight and eight of nine and are the top team in the league right now with so many offensive options.

2. Las Vegas (15-6): The Aces have dropped four of six after starting the season 13-2. They need to get more consistent play off the bench to help give their starters some rest. Las Vegas’ reserves are averaging about 11 points a game.

3. Connecticut (14-7): The Sun are looking to get off to better starts after being outscored 58-35 in the first quarter in their last two games. .

4. Seattle (13-8): Newly signed post Tina Charles got off to a slow start averaging 5 points and 5 rebounds in her first three games with the Storm.

5. Washington (13-10): The Mystics have gone 3-4 in their past seven games and are winless in the three games that Elena Delle Donne sat out to rest her back during that stretch.

6. Los Angeles (10-11): Lexie Brown has provided stability in the backcourt for the Sparks this season and is averaging a career-best 7.6 points a game.

7. Atlanta (10-11): The Dream are getting healthy and had wins over New York and Seattle last week. Tiffany Hayes played for the first time this season after recovering from a knee injury for the first two months of the season.

8. Minnesota (7-15): The Lynx have been playing better lately and their depth has been a reason why. Five different players have led Minnesota in scoring in the Lynx’s past six games. The Lynx are 4-2 in that stretch.

9. Phoenix (9-14): Skylar Diggins-Smith has had an All-Star season averaging 19.1 points, but the Mercury have had little consistency on offense besides her.

10. New York (8-12): After a solid June, the Liberty have struggled dropping two in a row. New York has two more road games (at Las Vegas and at Phoenix) before the All-Star break.

11. Dallas (9-12): The Wings have struggled with four losses in their last five games; their lone victory was against last-place Indiana.

12. Indiana (5-17): The Fever are getting valuable experience for their rookies and Queen Egbo and NaLyssa Smith have shown flashes of excellence.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Ogwumike of Los Angeles was voted the AP Player of the Week. She averaged 21.7 points, 6 rebounds and 2.3 assists to help the Sparks go 3-0. Candace Parker of Chicago, Diggins-Smith of Phoenix and Aerial Powers of Minnesota also received votes.

GRINER UPDATE

Brittney Griner’s trial in Russia began last week and on Monday she sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him not to “forget about me and the other American Detainees.” The trial will resume Thursday.

MAKING A COMEBACK

Three-time All-Star 3-point champion Allie Quigley left the door open to potentially returning to defend her title in Chicago this weekend.

“I don’t think so, but never say never,” she recently told The AP. “We’ll see. Chicago definitely makes you think a little bit more about it. I haven’t been asked yet.”

Quigley said last year after she won in Las Vegas that she wasn’t going to compete in the contest anymore.

GAME OF THE WEEK:

Team Stewart vs Team Wilson, Sunday. It will be the last All-Star Game for Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles when the league plays its midseason showcase in Chicago.

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More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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