Sparks guard Brittney Sykes was named WNBA first-team all-defense on Sunday after leading the league in steals during the regular season.
Sykes followed up a second-team all-defensive selection last season with career highs in steals (1.8) and rebounds (4.6) per game while anchoring the Sparks defense that finished third in defensive rating and second in points allowed per game. The Sparks (12-20) were eliminated from playoff contention after losing to the Dallas Wings in the regular-season finale but had stayed in the postseason hunt despite significant injuries because of their defense, which held teams to 77.1 points per game and forced a league-high 18.2 turnovers.
"I went for [defensive player of the year] and came up 'short,' " Sykes said in a statement through the Sparks. "Blessed to have humbly earned first team. I appreciate my coaches, my team and my opponents for making me better this year!"
Sykes received six votes for defensive player of the year, finishing second to Minnesota center Sylvia Fowles. Fowles ranked second in the league in steals (1.8) and blocks (1.8) and third in defensive rebounds (8.0) to headline the league's all-defensive first team, which includes Connecticut's Jonquel Jones and Briann January and Brianna Turner of the Phoenix Mercury.
The second all-defensive team featured Seattle's Breanna Stewart, Connecticut's Brionna Jones and Jasmine Thomas, Phoenix center Brittney Griner and Washington guard Ariel Atkins.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.