Late in regulation and overtime were where Jordin Canada took charge.
The Los Angeles Sparks went into Chicago against the reigning champion Sky and beat them after a hard-fought season opener 98-91 following the lead of Sparks’ newcomer and Los Angeles native Jordin Canada’s 21-point performance, tying her career-high.
Along with the team-high in points, Canada also had 8 assists and was a perfect 9-9 from the free-throw line. It looked like Canada hit them with ease with the game on the line.
“I worked on my free throws after shootaround today,” Canada said modestly postgame, “Repetition is everything.”
The Los Angeles Sparks are down 88-85 with 1.5 seconds remaining on the clock and Jordin Canada is at the top of the key. Chicago Sky’s Dana Evans fouls Canada as she is getting in motion to shoot a three-pointer.
The shot falters and Canada is headed to the free-throw line with composure hoping to make it a tie game at 88. The first free throw is good. The second free throw was also good. On the third free throw, the game is tied.
Chicago ball. Los Angeles is on the defense. Thanks to Liz Cambage’s length on defense for the Sparks, Cambage was able to tip the out-of-bounds pass before it got into play.
Regulation is over and it is time for overtime. Nine of Canada’s points on 5-5 free throws and two shots in the field in the fourth quarter helped propel the Sparks to get that point in the game.
As the Sparks were dominant in overtime, Canada scored 8 of the team’s 10 points in the period to give them the edge over the Sky.
Overtime on opening night? That’s a dream, especially against the defending champions and on the road with a new group playing together.
“Road wins are never easy to get,” Sparks Head Coach and General Manager Derek Fisher said postgame on what it was like for this new-look team in the win, “Facing adversity down three late, it’s easy to point fingers and say it’s somebody else’s fault because you never really built that connection.”
Sure enough, the Sparks were able to put their trust in one another even when they were down. Fisher hopes that moments like those on the road will help to be them together early in the season.
Nneka Ogwumike, who finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and three steals, thinks that they have an advantage early in the season by starting with four games on the road.
“I mean, there’s no harder adversity than that,” Ogwumike said, “We had to start with the defending champs in what was an electric crowd.”
Being exposed to that type of crowd and playing in an overtime game where there were 16 lead changes and about 9 ties, this opening day contest allowed the Sparks to learn how to fuse a bit more.
No matter the night, no matter the player, the Sparks will figure out a way to wheel themselves to the end of a game.
As part of Fisher’s philosophy and the team’s motto for the year in “Time to Show,” not only do these players have things to prove as individuals, but they are together as a group to serve one another every night.
“If it’s not your night, maybe it will be someone else’s night,” Ogwumike said, “You need to help, facilitate that or help get this person up.”
Whether a player is coming off the bench or starting the game, like Lexie Brown (4-5 from the three) and Chennedy Carter (4-5 from the field) who scored 12 points apiece in their debuts off the bench, every night can be different so players have to be prepared no matter what.
The Sparks’ bench outscored the Sky reserves 37-10. The Sparks also held the advantage on the boards (36-31), steals (19-11), fast-break points (25-5), and second-chance points (16-4) while forcing 25 turnovers that led to 38 points.
Los Angeles will look to build on this momentum from their overtime win against the Indiana Fever on Sunday afternoon.