ARLINGTON — The start of third quarters demoralized the Wings during the first four games of their five-game homestand. Opponents had outscored Dallas by 30 points in the first 10 minutes after halftime.
But the Wings reversed that trend in a big way Sunday at College Park Center against the Sparks. Led by an aggressive transition attack and creative halfcourt playmaking, Dallas outscored Los Angeles by 11 points.
The Wings kept their foot on the gas to start the fourth quarter as they cruised to a 92-82 win.
Arike Ogunbowale led Dallas with 27 points while Marina Mabrey added 21 and Allisha Gray had 20 as the Dallas guards were the fulcrums of the Wings up-tempo offense.
Dallas dominated the game in transition and scored 35 fast-break points. Its previous high was 19 points against Washington on May 17.
They did it mainly in two ways. The Wings feasted on lazy and weak passes from the Sparks and forced 17 turnovers.
The other way was by grabbing and going on defensive rebounds, whether they secured the rebounds themselves or got the outlet pass from one of the forwards.
Former Wings star Liz Cambage was the focal point of the Sparks offense in the first quarter, as Los Angeles fed the post constantly trying to assert itself inside.
The 6-foot-9 center was held somewhat in check, scoring seven points in the quarter and added two assists. But her biggest damage to Dallas was drawing fouls. Isabelle Harrison and Teaira McCowan both picked up two fouls in the quarter.
But the game started getting really physical in the second half. On back-to-back possessions in the second quarter, Thornton and Gray both ran down the court after they were called for fouls.
The second quarter in total had 13 fouls, one technical and two video reviews, resulting in a static and uneven pace to the proceedings. But that didn’t stop Arike Ogunbowale from finding her groove in the quarter.
She scored 15 points in the quarter on 4-of-7 shooting, doing particular damage from the near-side wing. She hit three 3-pointers in the quarter, all from the same spot on the court, but each came in different ways. One came off a dribble hand-off, one was a catch-and-shoot and the third was an off-the-dribble pull-up.
Her presence on the wing opened doors for others, too. With seconds left in the half, Gray grabbed a defensive rebound and dashed down the court to try and get a last second shot while Ogunbowale was off to her left. Ogunbowale’s presence drew Jordin Canada towards the arc, allowing Gray a path to the basket where she hit an And-1 layup with 0.7 seconds remaining.
Sunday was the third straight game Ogunbowale dropped double-digit points in the third quarter. She has scored 20-plus points in five of her last six games.
With Cambage picking up her fourth foul early in the third quarter, Dallas took advantage of her absence to extend its lead into double-figures. Los Angeles never got the lead back to single digits.
The lead reached 22 with about five minutes left in the fourth thanks to a Mabrey 3-pointer and coach Vickie Johnson soon took out the starters.
The game marked the first game of the season for Sparks guard and Mavericks assistant coach Kristi Toliver.
Toliver finished her first season with the Mavericks when the team was eliminated from the playoffs May 26. It was her third season as an NBA assistant after spending two previous seasons with the Washington Wizards.
The 35-year-old guard started the game and played 15 minutes, scoring three points and dishing out three assists.
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