Ogwumike lifts Sparks past Mystics


Ogwumike lifts Sparks past Mystics

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Nneka Ogwumike scored 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Los Angeles Sparks, who beat the Washington Mystics 101-70 on Monday night and improved to 5-0 at home.

The Sparks are off to their best home start since they went 7-0 in 2006.

Washington dropped its 12th straight road game, dating to a victory at Los Angeles on July 17, 2011. The 31-point loss was the Mystics' worst defeat of the season.

Ogwumike, the top pick in this year's WNBA draft, missed last Saturday's game to attend her graduation ceremony at Stanford. The Sparks (8-3) lost that game for their first two-game losing streak of the season, but they got re-energized in their third game in four nights.

Ogwumike went 11 for 14 from the field. Candace Parker scored eight of her 11 points in the third quarter and Kristi Toliver added 15 points and six assists. The Sparks benefited from 29 free throw attempts to 13 for the Mystics (2-6).

Michelle Snow led Washington with 15 points and seven rebounds, and Natasha Lacy added 12 points in a reserve role. Leading scorer Crystal Langhorne, who had scored 20 points in each of the previous three games, was held to a season-low two.

The Sparks opened the second half on a 12-4 run and pushed their lead to 21 when Ogwumike took a pass from a falling Marissa Coleman and scored on a layup to end the scoring in the third quarter. Ogwumike made a layup off a pass from Alana Beard pass in the lane and completed the three-point play to make it 84-54.

The Sparks led 44-36 at halftime thanks largely to 19 free throw attempts compared to six for the Mystics. Beard and Toliver went a combined 11 for 13 from the line in the first half, including four in the final minute to push the lead to 41-33.

Langhorne had no points and only two field goal attempts in the first half. Parker was held to three points on 1 for 5 shooting.

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Afternoon quote: McDavid hasn't had the creativity 'coached out' of him yet

Afternoon quote: McDavid hasn't had the creativity 'coached out' of him yet

Asked about the challenges of facing a player of Connor McDavid’s caliber, Matt Niskanen made an interesting point about today’s young players. In Niskanen's estimation, the next generation of NHL superstars are taking risks and resisting the urge to play everything safe.

That’s what makes them special. And hard to defend. 

“Young kids nowadays, they got the guts to try things,” Niskanen said Tuesday before the Capitals’ embarked on a four-game Western Canada trip that begins in Edmonton. “They’ll try a one-on-one, try to make a play in tight spaces, where it hasn’t been coached out of them yet. They’re a little unpredictable. That makes it challenging.”

Indeed, McDavid is one of the NHL’s most exciting players. He’s also one of the league's most productive. Through the season’s first six games, McDavid is tied for the NHL lead in points with nine (four goals and five assists).

RELATED: Trotz sees value in an early season road trip

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Despite mistakes, Redskins' Gruden has faith in WR Grant

Despite mistakes, Redskins' Gruden has faith in WR Grant

Redskins receiver Ryan Grant played 20 snaps against the Lions on Sunday. He was targeted twice and had one reception for five yards. But people were still talking about him after the game because of a couple of errors he made that could have been very costly.

The worst mistake came in the fourth quarter with the Redskins trailing 13-10. When Grant lined up for the play, he was on the line of scrimmage, covering up Ty Nsekhe, who had reported as an eligible receiver. According to the rules, an eligible receiver has to be line up either at one end of the line or in the backfield. Grant should have lined up off the line of scrimmage. The penalty negated a 27-yard completion to Vernon Davis.

Fortunately, the Redskins did go on to score a touchdown. But it was still a major gaffe for a third-year player.

“Yeah, that was tough when he covered up,” said Jay Gruden. “Nsekhe was in the game and I think he thought Nsekhe was a lineman—he didn’t realize he had reported as a tackle—so he saw the other tight end was off the ball so he got on. That’s a mistake that obviously is frustrating and we can’t have, but I can see where that could’ve messed him up a little bit. The referee was trying to get him back and he just didn’t see it.”

That’s the thing. The referee will tell you if you’re lined up properly or if you need to get off the line. If you’re a part-time player who doesn’t take many practice snaps with the starters you should check with the official 100 percent of the time.

Earlier the Redskins’ previous touchdown drive was almost derailed when Grant missed a hand signal from Kirk Cousins and ran the wrong route, almost causing an interception.

“The other one was a quick hand signal and he didn’t get it,” said Gruden. “It’s just something we have to work on—our communication—the ball was snapped quickly. But, yeah, you’re right. I think Ryan wishes he has those two back.”

It remains to be seen if another receiver will be activated in Grant’s place. But he has always seemed to be one of Gruden’s favorite players and, indeed, the coach finished the discussion of his mistakes by praising him.

“There’s nobody in this building that works harder than Ryan,” said Gruden. “He does a lot of the dirty work for us. He gets in there and digs out safeties for us in the running game. He’s a very important part of this offense and he’ll still get better.”

Sure doesn’t sound like a guy who is headed for the bench. And, to be fair, Grant will probably learn from his mistakes and not repeat them. We will see how this unfolds.