WNBA Playoffs: Previewing Sparks vs. Sun semifinals series

The Sparks will be tested on the road in Connecticut but can hang their hats on what they have built this season.

Los Angeles’ defense was able to contain Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones (middle) in the second half of their Aug. 25th game. (Photo by Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

Los Angeles has been great at home this season, most recently winning 15-straight home games which includes their second round elimination game against the Seattle Storm. As the Sparks prepare to take on the Connecticut Sun, one could wonder how they would fare on the road in the postseason due to their road struggles during the regular season.

Los Angeles finished the regular season with a 7-10 road record. During their road-trip earlier in the season, the two teams met in what was Chiney Ogwumike’s return to the Mohegan Sun Arena as a member of the Los Angeles Sparks. Los Angeles faltered in that game losing 89-77, but ultimately finished that four-game road trip 3-1.

Aside from their loss in Connecticut earlier in the season, the Sparks won the season series 2-1. In the first two meetings between the two teams, the Sparks were riddled with the Candace Parker and Alana Beard injuries while Maria Vadeeva was overseas. The only time that all 12 players for the Sparks faced the Sun was in the final game of their season series on Aug. 25.

“It feels good to look down the bench and we have all 12 [players] down there ready to get in the game and ready to contribute,” Chelsea Gray said.

The Sparks were better at home and spent the end of the season in Los Angeles. With their success at home this season, the thought of replicating that on the road as been brought up but it is all up to getting over a slow start and asserting themselves defensively.

The Sparks’ defense is something that has kept them in games during comebacks or even when extending leads on teams. In both cases, this has been a constant with the Sparks throughout the season series.

Luckily with the Sparks coming off their 15th straight win at home against the Seattle Storm on Sunday, the Sparks are able to rest yet be rejuvenated to play against the Connecticut Sun.

“The sense of urgency is there,”Sydney Wiese said. “We just got to make sure that we take care of our bodies when we travel, stay hydrated, and know that it is a quick turnaround.”

Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas have been a defensive duo for the Sun in their success this season. Not only have they have been a one-two punch defensively, they have been dominant in the paint.

Containing Jones, Thomas, and company will be a formiddable task for Los Angeles just as it would be a task for Connecticut to hinder any of the Sparks’ heavy hitters.

Connecticut has been a strong team at home this season with a 15-2 record similarly to Los Angeles, and have shown as unit why they have been a top team this season. Like the Sparks, the Sun’s home-court advantage has been unmatched when it comes to the fanfare at games this season. That will be something that the Sparks will need to disrupt if they want to steal a game in Connecticut.

“We know they are good at home, we know the crowd is going to be into it, but we are going to have to lean on our defense — offensively, moving the basketball so it doesn’t stick,” Sparks head coach Fisher said.

With the league chartering flights for the winners of the second round, the Sparks are well rested and are able to focus on the Sun.

Los Angeles will have to hone in what they have been focusing on throughout the season. Even with all 12 players, the Sparks have nailed their identity this season at home. Translating what they have built will be tested against the Connecticut Sun, but they can hang their hat on that throughout this semifinals series.

“We have tried to stress all season long that as opponents change, we don’t necessarily have to change who we are,” Fisher said.

Both teams will compete against one another in game one of the semifinals this evening at 3:30 p.m. PT on ESPN2.

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