The Los Angeles Sparks (5-6) upped their intensity level in Thursday night’s 86-74 victory over the Las Vegas Aces. With Candace Parker looking more like her usual self, the Sparks outscored the Aces 49-35 in the second and third quarters to cruise to a 12-point victory.
Parker scored 18 points and added nine rebounds, while Riquna Williams and Chelsea Gray both added 18 points of their own. Alana Beard only contributed two points in 19 minutes, but the talented forward excelled on the defensive end, tallying five steals and finishing the game with a plus-minus of +18.
Head coach Derek Fisher mentioned Parker’s comfort level playing with a player like Beard, and the Sparks haven’t had that combination for stretches this season, as Parker and Beard have battled injuries. With both players on the court, the Sparks appear to be hitting their stride. Despite those players back, Fisher didn’t want to put all the credit for a better performance on a healthy team or those two players, but rather citing a complete team performance as the reason for success.
“For us, I don’t think we’ve ever really tried to use Candace being out or Maria being away or AB being out as a reason why we couldn’t be successful,” Fisher said. “I think tonight we were just better at more things.”
That they were. After shooting just 17-63 (27%) on three-point attempts in their previous three games, the Sparks shot 8-18 (44%) from beyond the arc in the victory over the Aces. While it certainly helps to have Parker and Beard at full strength, the Sparks overall shooting improved dramatically from previous performances, which helped the team get back in the win column.
The Los Angeles Sparks (6-6) kept their momentum going on Sunday night by demolishing the Chicago Sky in a 94-69 home victory. Everything went right for the Sparks, who played with a defensive intensity that pleased Derek Fisher.
“It’s an area we’ve tried to work at a lot over the last week as we’ve gotten a chance to practice more with Candace back in the lineup,” Fisher said.
While Beard didn’t play against the Sky, the Sparks used great defense in the final three quarters to pull away. After scoring 21 points on 50% three-point shooting in the first quarter, Chicago only mustered 29 points in the second and third quarters combined. Much like they did against the Aces the game prior, the Sparks pulled away with big second and third quarters. Los Angeles outscored Chicago 47-29 in those quarters en route to a commanding 25-point win.
“Defense really is a lot about communication and trust,” Fisher said.
Fisher also mentioned how increased reps with everyone getting healthy has helped the team’s defense gel as a unit.
After giving up at least 80 points in every game of their four-game losing streak, the Sparks held their last two opponents to 74 and 69 points and got their record back to .500. Los Angeles is 5-0 on the season when it holds opponents under 75 points.
The Sparks look to continue their winning ways on Sunday, July 7, when they host the WNBA’s best team in the Washington Mystics (9-3). Tip-off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. PT with coverage on Spectrum SportsNet.