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Sparks face Las Vegas Aces in first road game of season

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Sparks were the only team (officially) to defeat the Aces in Las Vegas last season.

LAS VEGAS — The start of the regular season didn’t go exactly as planned for the Los Angeles Sparks. The beginning of the fourth quarter doomed the team as the Atlanta Dream went on an 11-0 run to open up the stanza. The result was a 92-81 tally in favor of Atlanta.

Still, coach Curt Miller was very proud of how the team came out.

“I love the (team’s) scrappiness,” said Miller. “I love their tempo for the most part. I think you see that we can be a better three-point shooting team than we were last year overall. We did not have a good night at the foul line but so much positives you can take away from a build year. And I thought we played so hard.”

It’s no secret that the Sparks are in rebuilding mode. But they will keep building until L.A. is restored to its former glory: a championship team that the city could be proud of.

A championship team like the Las Vegas Aces, who happen to be their next opponents in the first road game of the season.

The Aces are the two-time WNBA defending champions, the first team to win consecutive titles since the Sparks did it in 2001 and 2002. The squad is very much stacked as Las Vegas had four of their players go to the All-Star game last year. Most would say that A’ja Wilson is the best player and the face of the league. Jackie Young is a deadeye shooter and a hellish perimeter defender. Kelsey Plum can get buckets. And Chelsea Gray is the “point god” of the team.

Gray is hurt at the moment so Alysha Clark, who has won three championships and won the 6th Player of the Year award last season, has taken her place in the line-up. Kiah Stokes is the physical woman in the middle and rounds out a potent Aces starting five.

The Aces only lost once at home (well, officially) last season. And the team that achieved that feat? The Los Angeles Sparks. Granted, the Sparks did not play for a week beforehand while the Aces were in the middle of a grueling schedule (their fifth game in nine days at the time) but it’s a win all the same.

Both teams get plenty of rest this time around before this Saturday noon game as the Aces have three days off while the Sparks have two. What frustrated the Aces in their loss to the Sparks last season was L.A.’s defense. Las Vegas was held to .360 shooting while the Sparks shot .528 to make up for their myriad of turnovers (25). Vegas was the best offensive and defensive team last season so L.A. hopes they can take the Aces to the quicksand and dirty up the game.

Former Ace and current Spark Dearica Hamby will have revenge in her mind. She had a monster double-double (20 points, 14 rebounds) against Atlanta so she’ll try to follow up on that. Kia Nurse shot the lights out with 23 points and hopes to continue providing the artillery from afar. Rookies Cameron Brink (11 points last game) and Rickea Jackson (seven points) will definitely be tested in this contest. Unfortunately, Rae Burrell will miss the game due to a non-COVID illness.

Not the easiest schedule by the Sparks to start. But if they can score the upset against Vegas, it can do wonders for their confidence and can possibly set the tone for the rest of the season.

The Sporting Tribune’s Fredo Cervantes contributed to this article.