Sparks' Nneka Ogwumike scratched because of knee pain

ByM.A. Voepel ESPN logo
Monday, September 4, 2023

The Los Angeles Sparks' top scorer and rebounder Nneka Ogwumike was a late scratch from Sunday's game because of knee pain, but the Sparks still got a key victory in their quest to make the WNBA playoffs.

The Sparks beat the Washington Mystics72-64to stop a three-game skid and give them a one-game edge over the Chicago Sky for eighth place in the WNBA standings. The top eight teams make the playoffs, and so far five spots have been claimed, the latest by the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday.

Los Angeles, which missed the postseason the past two years, is now 16-21, trailing the Atlanta Dream and the Mystics, who are both 17-20. Chicago is 15-22.

Ogwumike, who is averaging 19.9 points and 8.9 rebounds, had started all but one game for the Sparks this season before Sunday's scratch.

"She's played through some discomfort recently," Sparks coach Curt Miller said of Ogwumike, a 33-year-old veteran who has spent her entire WNBA career in Los Angeles. "We felt it was prudent that she needed some more rest tonight. We'll see how she [does] over the next couple of days and how she is on this road trip."

The Sparks have three games left in the regular season, all on the road: at Connecticut on Tuesday, at New York on Thursday and at Seattle on Sunday.

Los Angeles got back guard Layshia Clarendon, who had been out the previous two games because of health and safety protocols, and she led the Sparks with 15 points Sunday.

"It was a big win to finish out the home schedule of the regular season," Miller said. "When a star player is scratched as late as Nneka was scratched, I've watched teams not be mentally ready to handle the situation. And they just didn't miss a beat. All the adversity we've been through this year has prepared us for the fact that you have to pivot when someone goes down."