- Associated Press - Sunday, October 2, 2016

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) - Chicago Sky rookie Imani Boyette didn’t want to continue playing poorly in the WNBA semifinals.

The 6-foot-7 center averaged three points and 4.5 rebounds in two double-digits losses to the Los Angeles Sparks. Boyette played better - much better, scoring all 13 of her points after halftime and grabbing 11 rebounds as the Sky held off the Sparks 70-66 on Sunday to force a Game 4.

“I hadn’t shown up in the series yet - the lights have been kind of bright,” Boyette said. “I’ve been guarding two of the best players, so I was very much a rookie this series. My teammates have done a really good job of encouraging me and staying on me.”

Boyette scored seven points in the third quarter as the Sky turned a nine-point deficit into a two-point lead going into the final quarter.

“She’s a body down there, so she can’t go ignored,” league MVP Nneka Ogwumike said. “We weren’t prepared for that.”

Courtney Vandersloot added 17 points and Clarissa Dos Santos had 10 for the fourth-seeded Sky, who have been playing without leading scorer and rebounder Elena Delle Donne. The 2015 league MVP underwent right thumb surgery on Sept. 13.

“We were confident going into this game because we knew they hadn’t seen our best yet,” Vandersloot said.

Ogwumike had 16 of her 22 points in the first half and Kristi Toliver added 13 for the second-seeded Sparks, who won the first two games of the series at home by double digits.

The Sparks made 6 of their 33 shots beyond the arc.

“Their zone affected us. We didn’t adjust,” two-time MVP Candace Parker said.

Parker shot 3 for 14 from the field for nine points but grabbed 15 rebounds. She averaged 25 points in the other two games. League sixth woman of the year Jantel Lavender finished with six points for the Sparks.

Defending champion and top-seeded Minnesota has a 2-0 lead over Phoenix in the other semifinal series, with Game 3 later Sunday.

Toliver hit a 3 for a two-point Sparks lead with 1:30 left, but Boyette made two layups and Vandersloot hit a jumper for a four-point lead. Ogwumike missed a 3 with 8 seconds left, and Vandersloot made two free throws to seal it.

The Sky opened the third quarter with a 17-6 run to take the lead. Ogwumike and Parker were scoreless in the third, when the Sky outscored Los Angeles 19-8.

“Our defensive intensity, we were able to stop them a little bit in the second half,” Vandersloot said. “They scored eight points in the third quarter, and that’s unheard for a team that skilled and that many offensive threats.”

The Sparks led by 15 in the first half, but the Sky scored the final six points of the second quarter to pull within nine.

“We got up by a lot, and we got a little frazzled,” Ogwumike said.

Los Angeles won 95-75 and 99-84 in the other games.

“They were extremely hungry to win,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “We were like that in LA, but not quite like that here.”


Sparks co-owner Magic Johnson was in attendance. … The Sparks scored at least 93 points in four of their previous five meetings with Chicago. … During the regular season, Los Angeles led the WNBA with a 48.7 percent field goal percentage, while the Sky topped the league in scoring at 86.2 points.


Delle Donne has missed nine straight games. She averaged 21.5 points to share the league scoring title with New York’s Tina Charles.


Game 4 is in Chicago on Tuesday night

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