Sparks’ postseason push comes at Atlanta’s expense

LOS ANGELES, CA (News4usonline) – The WNBA regular season comes to a close for the Los Angeles Sparks with a home game at Staples Center against the Minnesota Lynx. The postseason is right around the corner. Sparks head coach Derek Fisher has his team in the right position to possibly make a deep run in the playoffs.

But there may be some kinks that the Sparks have to work out if they hope to get to the championship round. In playing against the Atlanta Dream in their third to last game of the regular season, the Sparks came out flat in the first quarter before regaining their mojo back the next three periods on their way to record a 70-60 win.

“These teams, like Atlanta, are hard to beat because they are playing carefree basketball,” said Sparks forward Chiney Ogwumike, who finished the game with 17 points and 10 rebounds. “Obviously,they are out of the playoffs but they still play with pride. So, we knew that those are the dangerous ones that can sneak up on you.”

Down 35-34 at the half, the Sparks went on an 11-0 run in the third quarter to give themselves a 17-10 advantage in the period. That was the difference in the ballgame.

WNBA game between LA Sparks and Atlanta Dream
© Mark Hammond/News4usonline – Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker on the defense in her team’s 70-60 win against that Atlanta Dream at Staples Center on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019.

“I think the players found a little bit of energy they were lacking in the first half…In the third quarter they tried to clear their minds a little bit each defensive possession one at a time, and that was really were the separation came from,” Fisher said. “I thought we rebounded the ball a lot better, we were more active in the third quarter and we were able to get a little bit more separation.”

The game was played much closer than the final score indicates. One reason the Sparks didn’t blow out the worst team in the WNBA was the turnover battle. The Sparks lost in that category, turning the ball over 18 times. That wasn’t a good look for their coach.

“What I didn’t like…turnovers,” Fisher said. “Like I said, the fatigue for sure…We have to try to be smarter with the basketball. And I think also, offensively, in the second half we were better. We’re so good sometimes that we don’t trust that we can change the side of the with the basketball. Like Chelsea (Gray) is thinking about making a great play and getting an assist; Candace (Parker) is thinking about making a great play and getting an assist. Oftentimes you just need to make an okay play.”

© Mark Hammond/News4usonline – Los Angeles Sparks forward Chiney Ogwumike goes up for the block shot attempt against Jessica Breland (51) in her team’s 70-60 win against that Atlanta Dream at Staples Center on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019.

The Sparks, led by Candace Parker’s 21 points and 11 rebounds, did manage to do something right. That something was play defense. After giving up 24 points in the opening quarter, the Sparks held Atlanta to 11 points in the second period, and 10 points in the third.

The victory wasn’t one drawn up by Vincent van Gogh, but Fisher will gladly take it.

“I like the fact that it wasn’t a scripted-type of performance,” said Fisher. “Like, we’ve been really good at home. We’ve gotten separation from teams…big leads. I like the fact that there is a level of grit and mental toughness that you have to have in order to win in the postseason. You have to be willing to play even with its 33-32 at halftime or 42-39 in the third quarter, not feel like it’s supposed to be easy.

“I think the more we have experiences where…similar to (Las) Vegas, right? We’re up 13, and they make a run because they’re good and they’re at home,” Fisher added. “But the game is basically tied with six minutes to go. Okay, let’s dig down and figure out how to win the game. [It] doesn’t matter how or who scores the points. Just win. So, I liked that about tonight’s game. We just had to find a way. Bodies were out. We weren’t playing that great. We won.”

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