LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) – In their first game since the firing of head coach Derek Fisher, the Los Angeles Sparks were blown out by the Las Vegas Aces, 89-72. Interim head coach Fred Williams has taken over for Fisher. In his first night coaching, the Sparks faltered and wound up with a lopsided loss.
The Sparks played the best team in the league in the Aces. Las Vegas stands alone in first place in the Western Conference and have the best overall record in the WNBA.
With the firing of Fisher, it is important for the team to come together and find their stride. The importance of the team coming together and trying to move past this moment will be critical for the season. Losing your head coach in the middle of the season can be a real challenge for some teams to overcome.
Sparks star Nneka Ogwumike, the longest-tenured player on the team, talked about how the team has to overcome the coaching change and stay unified.
“When these types of changes happen, we can’t stop,” Ogwumike said. “That’s our job, that’s our responsibility and we have to uphold that.”
With the Aces coming into town for their matchup against the Sparks, it was going to be a tough battle for Los Angeles. Right out in the first quarter, former MVP A’ja Wilson had a dominant performance, scoring 13 of the 25 total points the Aces totaled in the first quarter.
The Sparks were competitive early on and showed some good defensive effort. Chennedy Carter provided a little boost off the bench for the Sparks, and they were able to close the quarter only down 25-18.
Entering the second quarter, the Sparks really began to fall apart. Struggling to shoot the ball from the three-point line, combined with just falling into an offensive slump, the Sparks allowed the Aces to take off. Connecting on multiple three-point attempts combined with the dominance of Wilson, the Aces were just too much to contain.
The Sparks did not get any significant contributions from anyone in the second quarter. Star center Liz Cambage at one point went back to the locker room in the second quarter. She would later return but she did not provide a significant performance in this game against her former team.
After a rough first half by the Sparks, Los Angeles trailed 52-35 at halftime. The lead only got much bigger going into the final quarter of the game. The Sparks’ defense and offense completely struggled. The offense mostly centered on getting to the paint and scoring or having success in transition.
Even their mid-range shot and their three-point line normalcy from the Sparks just were not there for this game. The Aces capitalized. Wilson relentlessly attacked the paint and dominated the Sparks defense. She had 29 points before the third quarter was over. The Aces lead 78-54 entering the final quarter.
The Sparks, mainly playing for pride and rhythm, were able to cut the lead down from the Aces, but the Aces were never in any threat. Controlling the game the entire way through, the Aces lived up to their record and performed like the best team in the league this season.
Wilson showed why she is such a dominant player, and the Aces were able to keep the Sparks stars under control.
The loss to the Aces is the first defeat for the Sparks under Williams. The season has not gotten off to the start they may have hoped for a team that has title aspirations. Players such as Britney Sykes still have hopes for a championship, despite the coaching change.
After Fisher’s firing, Sykes said, “Across the board, everybody wants to compete for the championship,” she said.
Coaching changes are never ideal for any team in the middle of a season, but with the struggling Sparks team at the moment, it is an attempt to give this team a push. Williams is given an opportunity to get the Sparks on course and compete. The Sparks are currently sitting on the last playoff spot if it was to begin today.
The blowout loss to the Aces is a bad first start, but there is still time for the Sparks to recover if they come together and gel like many expected them to.