Griner, Mercury Grind Down Sparks

Los Angeles Sparks center Jantel Lavender goes up to score two of her 10 points against the Phoenix Mercury in a WNBA contest played at Staples Center. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman
Los Angeles Sparks center Jantel Lavender goes up to score two of her 10 points against the Phoenix Mercury in a WNBA contest played at Staples Center Sunday, July 5, 2015. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman
Los Angeles Sparks center Jantel Lavender (42) goes up to score two of her 10 points against the Phoenix Mercury in a WNBA contest played at Staples Center Sunday, July 5, 2015. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman

LOS ANGELES-The Los Angeles Sparks are close. They’re almost there. The Sparks haven’t hit their win groove yet where they’re racking off one victory after another. Hopefully that time will come soon enough for the team to pile up enough wins to try to get into the postseason.

After going through a seven-game swan dive where they started off the season going 0-7, the Sparks looked to have turned the corner in back-to-back wins against the San Antonio  Stars and Tulsa Shock. Making it three in a row against Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury would have capped off a fabulous Fourth of July holiday weekend for the Sparks.

It didn’t quite work out that way. After dropping a new franchise record 43 points against the Shock, guard Kristi Toliver couldn’t find the magic stroke against the Mercury, scoring just 16 points as Griner and the Mercury picked up a 94-91 overtime win at Staples Center Sunday, July 5.

Phoenix Mercury forward/center Brittney Griner looks to make a move against the defense of the Los Angeles Sparks Sunday, July, 2015. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman
Phoenix Mercury forward/center Brittney Griner looks to make a move against the defense of the Los Angeles Sparks Sunday, July, 2015. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

The outcome of the game was settled with Phoenix outscoring Los Angeles, 9-6, in the overtime period to claim its sixth (6-5) win of the season. The Sparks dropped to 2-8. But they had an excellent opportunity to end the game in regulation with a play set up for Toliver, who made only 5-of-13 shots from the field. That didn’t work out too well, either.

Guard Temeka Johnson’s pass for Toliver went errant to the sidelines without the sharpshooter getting a chance to hoist it to the basket. Griner, who scored 19 points and grabbed 10 boards, and her teammates, finished off the job in overtime. Stopping Griner or slowing her down is a tall task for anyone to be asked to do. The Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike more than met that challenge, scoring a game-high 26 and pulling down 19 rebounds, clearly offsetting Griner’s double-digit numbers.

Guard Erin Phillips on the move against the Phoenix Mercury Sunday, July 5, 2015. Phillips scored 20 for the Sparks in the team's 94-91 defeat to Phoenix. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman
Guard Erin Phillips (31) on the move against the Phoenix Mercury Sunday, July 5, 2015. Phillips scored 20 for the Sparks in the team’s 94-91 defeat to Phoenix. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

At the end of the day, however, what Ogwumike and the rest of the other players did, wasn’t enough to beat a team playing without one of its stars (Diana Taurasi). It wasn’t enough even with five players scoring in double figures for the Sparks.  This 2015 WNBA season has been quite a journey for the Sparks. It’s been one roller-coaster after another. The first wave was finding out that star Candace Parker would be out at least the beginning of the season.

The Sparks didn’t have the services of Toliver until recently. The Sparks ‘ season started off on the wrong foot as the team dealt with seven straight losses. The assumed turnaround came with the Sparks winning two games in a row. The loss to Phoenix notwithstanding, the Sparks have played well over the course of the last three games.

Going on the road for a couple of games before they return back to Staples Center Thursday, July 16, will be a true indicator if the Sparks still have playoff aspirations or not.

 

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1076 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.