Sparks Unplugged from Playoffs

 

Candace Parker and Los Angeles Sparks teammates are looking to the future after failing to make the playoffs this season./Photo: Kiahna Manker

You could hear a pin drop afterwards. The mood was somber and one of finality. The party crashed as the Los Angeles Sparks found themselves officially eliminated from playoff contention once and for all after a devastating defeat to the San Antonio Silver Stars at Staples Center.

But this was no shocking exit. You could it coming. Much like their game against San Antonio with two contests remaining, the Sparks played with the consistency of a yo-yo all season. Injuries depleted their roster. A change in coaches couldn’t reverse the tide of inconsistent play.

What began as a season of promise turned into one that ended in emptiness and what could have been. Sparks’ forward Candace Parker, who said after the loss that she will be playing in Russia during the offseason, was bummed out over the fact she and her teammates will not be playing in the postseason.

“We’re learning now that every game matters,” Parker said. “It’s tough that we didn’t make the playoffs.”    

The Sparks came out in their game against San Antonio as if they sensed defeat.  Sure, they gave a gallant effort in that first and second periods, but body language says a lot. And the language the Sparks exhibited was that of a defeated club, not from anything the Silver Stars did, but from the weight of falling short of postseason and championship aspirations.

Watching the Sparks going through the motions near the end of a once promising season is like watching an over-the-hill boxer trying to reclaim fading glory. The mind and the heart is there but in the end the body can no longer perform the way it way it wants to. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what the Sparks are experiencing right now.

What the Sparks are going through is a hard-to-believe rejection of a lost season, which in many ways it was. The difference between winning and losing comes down to energy.  For the last several weeks the Sparks have played like they are riding on fumes. There are a lot of variables that can be explained why the Sparks didn’t reach up to their potential as a team.

 But one thing is clear and that is that the Sparks simply didn’t fulfill expectations. As the Sparks continued to fight and scrap against the Silver Stars, you could feel the desperation of a team trying to back their way into the playoffs. For the Sparks, it was a case of too little, too late. Just like their up and down season, the Sparks couldn’t overcome themselves when it mattered the most against San Antonio.

 Their first half energy turned into sloppiness in the last two quarters. That sloppiness clinched the fact that the Sparks will not be seeing a postseason. Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, who took over the head coaching duties for the team after Jennifer Gillom was let go, said there are a number of things the Sparks can fix.

A full training camp can help the team fix their flaws, particularly offensive rebounding and limiting turnovers, Bryant said.

“This problem has been going on, not only this year, but in years past,” Bryant said. “There were times when we kept those things down we had a chance to win the game. Those things have to be fixed. There are a lot of things we have to improve on. I’m just hoping that I get a chance to get into training camp, because when you come in midseason it’s hard to put your defense, your philosophy…you’re really putting a band-aid on things. I look forward to coming back into training camp.”

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