LOS ANGELES — We are entering the last quarter of the season for the Los Angeles Sparks. Sitting at 12-18 and at the 9th spot (the Chicago Sky have the same record but own the tiebreaker for the 8th and final playoff spot over the Sparks), there’s still plenty of time to make the postseason and snap that two-year playoff drought.
That 8-game losing streak certainly hurt them (that’s an understatement). We also know that the Sparks have been ravaged by injuries; as of this writing, the Sparks players have missed 90 games due to injury/illness, which is tops in the league. But as Coach Curt Miller brought up recently, they’ve been able to put together wins because they’ve been able to keep the same line-ups in the last few games.
Let’s take a look at the Sparks’ remaining schedule:
(Sparks have 10 games left in the season. Screenshot from ESPN.)
It goes without saying that the game against the defending champs on Saturday will be rough. Then on the 23rd, the Sparks will be at home but at Galen Center in USC (University of Southern California, just in case you don’t know) to face the Phoenix Mercury. The Sparks have beaten the Merc two out of three times this season.
The Sparks will be on the road for the next two games. They’re going to be in Atlanta to face the Dream; the Dream do hold a 2-1 season series lead but the Sparks won the last match-up. Then on the 27th, the Sparks face a really good team in the Sun. They’ve only faced each other once and the Sun won in a hotly-contested game.
After that, the Sparks will be on a three-game home stand, which will be their last home games of the regular season. The 29th sees them facing the Chicago Sky. The Sky lead the season series, 2-1, but they haven’t exactly been threats as of late. Two days later, they go against the Seattle Storm; they have split their two games this season.
Finally, their last home game (also at Galen Center) is against the Washington Mystics on the third of September. The Sparks and Mystics split the two games they played in D.C. so this will be a huge match-up for both.
The Sparks close out the regular season with a three-game road trip. On September 5th, they go back to Connecticut. Two days after, they’ll have their work cut out for them against an increasingly terrifying New York Liberty squad. Then on the last game of the regular campaign, the Sparks face the Storm on September 10th.
We can’t overlook on how crunched the schedule is. Yes, the players are always going to say that they’re professionals and that this is all part of the game. But they’re going to have to dig deep and have enough energy to play every other day for five games starting on Wednesday, the 23rd. Especially since a couple of those games are on the road. And on the other side of the country.
If relatively healthy, a 5-5 slate here is realistic. Maybe even 6-4. Going .500 the rest of the way could be enough to get them into the postseason.
(The Sparks are currently 9th in the league. Screenshot from ESPN.)
And you can see the gap between the teams: the Top 3 have pretty much run away from the rest of the pack. Then you see 4-9 separated by four games. Sparks have games against the Sky, Mystics, and the Dream and those match-ups figure to be bigger than any of the games left in the schedule.
Coach Miller said that they weren’t brought there to tank the season. And with a season that might come down to the wire for the Sparks, let’s see if they can make the postseason in their first year of this building process, so to speak.
Otherwise, it could be the end of the road for the season.