Los Angeles heads home with a 2-2 road record.
In their first road trip of the season, the Los Angeles Sparks had some highlights that solidified their identity and lowlights that needed some more time. The bright spot for them during this trip was their weekend battle with the Chicago Sky but their production was a bit dull in their second meeting with the Dallas Wings on Tuesday evening.
“We’re in a construction zone right now,” Sparks guard Kristi Toliver said to media postgame on the team still figuring themselves out during their road trip.
Los Angeles can tip their hat on the fact that they were a bit successful on the road trip. Toliver also expressed that for them to have basically broke even on this slate of games, they still carry some sort of excitement to see how they build off it back at home later on in the week.
Unpacking this loss to Dallas
A rough second quarter brought the Los Angeles Sparks down a notch in a 79-69 loss against the Dallas Wings. It also did not help the Sparks that star forward Nneka Ogwumike did not return to the court in the fourth quarter after sustaining a knee injury early in the period. Once Ogwumike was off the floor, the Wings continued to create some space between themselves and the Sparks.
The Sparks were also working with an eight-person rotation with Chiney Ogwumike missing her second consecutive game due to right knee soreness and Arella Guirantes just did not see game action. There was also another starting lineup combination that they rolled out with three guards in Erica Wheeler, Kristi Toliver, and Te’a Cooper along with Nia Coffey and Nneka Ogwumike in the front court.
“Having that additional ball handler, decision maker in there, I thought it was really good for us. We started strong,” Sparks Head Coach & General Manager Derek Fisher said on the lineup change.
With that lineup on the floor, the Sparks were able to set their pace and have a better start than the Chicago games in that opening quarter. Once the Wings went on their 7-0 run to make it a five-point game at the end of the first when the Sparks started to get stagnant on offense, that was the sign that the Wings were not going to go away.
The worst quarter of the game was the second where the Wings outscored the Sparks 22-7 with their own shooting and defensive stops. There were also some unforced errors made by the Sparks that were detrimental for them. The Sparks could barely hit 15% of their shots from the field. Turnovers in the quarter were even for both teams at three while the Wings won the rebounding battle in the quarter 15-6 and outscored the Sparks in second-chance points 8-0.
In the second half, the defensive stops for the Sparks were able to translate into offense at times with completed plays. It was a back and forth game of runs with the Wings steadily holding onto their lead. The Sparks opened the third quarter with a 4-0 run but Dallas took their lead to double figures at one point. A string of defensive stops and some unforced errors on the Wings’ part brought the Sparks within nine at the end of the quarter.
The final quarter consisted of Dallas making more of their shots whereas individual Sparks offense was trying to chip at the deficit. With individual offense or defense in taking on defensive assignments by themselves or isolation, the decision making in some of those moments could hurt or help the team in relation to the overall team principles on both ends.
Simply put was not a great offensive performance for the Sparks but the big positive for them as a team was their overall defense.
“To hold them under 80 points, we can’t be overly frustrated with what happened defensively,” Fisher said. “We just didn’t put the ball in the basket.”
Four Sparks players finished with double figures. Toliver finished with a team-high of 14 points on 4-5 threes and two assists. Cooper had 12 points, three rebounds, and four assists. Amanda Zahui B. and Ogwumike had 10 points each.
With four three-pointers made in the game, Toliver surpassed WNBA Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings for seventh all-time career three-pointers made at 607.