The Los Angeles Sparks got their rings Friday night before they tipped off against the new-look Washington Mystics.
But when the ball started bouncing, it wouldn’t be a player who helped the Sparks defeat the Minnesota Lynx last October that would lead them to a victory. Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike had solid games, but it was a new face who gave L.A. the spark it needed to top the Mystics on ring night.
Sydney Wiese — a 21-year-old taken by the Sparks in the 2017 WNBA Draft — tallied 22 points on 13 shots and her strong play at the end of the first quarter powered the Sparks on a 19-5 run. The Mystics never sniffed the lead again and fell 99-89 to the Sparks at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Elena Delle Donne led the Mystics in scoring with 27 points, while Tayler Hill added 20 and former Spark Kristi Toliver notched 15 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Sydney Wiese was ridiculous - Wiese had a monster first half, scoring 16 points over eight minutes without missing a shot, but she retained that impressiveness late in to the game. Even when the Mystics cut the deficit to single digits in the fourth quarter, the Oregon State product swished her sixth three-pointer of the night to extend the lead.
As previously noted, Wiese was the 11th overall pick in the 2017 draft. The Mystics had a player on their bench — former Maryland Terrapin Shatori Walker-Kimbrough — who was taken with the 6th overall pick. But all SWK did was receive her second straight DNP-CD. Someone who shot 45-percent from outside in college might’ve given the Mystics a boost on Friday.
Emma Meeseman had little impact — The Mystics will have to figure out how to win games without Meeseman — she’ll play just two more games with them before leaving for EuroBasket for a bit — but while she’s around, it’d be nice to see her contributing to wins. Meeseman hasn’t spent much time playing with EDD and the current Mystics, so this road swing is sort-of a training camp for her, but while it’s early, and while she might need some time to adjust, these games still matter.
Meeseman started and played 24 minutes on Friday, finishing with four points, four rebounds and five assists. While her assists numbers — a stat often linked to chemistry — are solid, there’s something to be desired in the scoring and boards department. Defensively, she was mostly ineffective against the likes of Parker and Ogwumike.
EDD was great, but it wasn’t enough — Delle Donne carried the Mystics on Friday night and pulled off some moves that made her look unguardable. After all, she is a former MVP, but there were some plays where EDD would’ve scored even if she was playing one-on-five.
EDD fighting through Ogwumike here was pretty incredible. pic.twitter.com/LgyYCaryPf— Mitchell Northam (@primetimeMitch) May 20, 2017
Still, it’s very difficult to win when two starters combine for just five points, and when three bench players who played more than a combined 44 minutes tallied a combined nine points.
Delle Donne, Hill, Toliver and Ivory Latta had solid games, but the Mystics will need more from others to create a winning formula. But it’s early. There’s plenty of time for coach Mike Thibault to make things gel.
NEXT UP: The Mystics stay on the west coast, but head north to Seattle for a meeting with Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird and the Storm on Sunday. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. eastern.
ALSO: Before the tip Friday night, Toliver received her 2016 Finals’ ring and shared a moment with Sparks’ coach Brian Agler and owner Magic Johnson. Toliver, the Sparks’ franchise leader in three-point and free throw percentage, tallied eight points, four assists and three rebounds in the Sparks’ Game Five win over the Lynx in October.