LAS VEGAS — The Los Angeles Sparks are currently 12-18 and could either be 8th or 9th place entering Saturday afternoon’s game. They could be peaking at the right time as they have won three in a row. And the Sparks are looking for a fourth straight victory.
It’s going to be a hell of a task. The Sparks are going to the city full of sin and take on the defending champion Aces.
The Aces are technically undefeated at home. However, they did lose a game at home recently as they lost the Commissioner’s Cup Final against the tough New York Liberty (the Cup Final did not count in the standings). But two nights later, the Aces got their revenge against the Liberty in the same court (it’s funny how these schedules work out). This time, this game counted in the standings. And the Aces are now a near-flawless 28-3.
The defending champions have been pretty much flawless against the Sparks. Las Vegas has won all three of their match-ups so far. The last one was particularly scathing as the Aces won wire-to-wire and A’ja Wilson outscored the entire Sparks team by herself in the first quarter (16-15).
However, there was also their first match-up where the Sparks frustrated the Aces with their defense. And that’s where the Sparks have been really strong in their last four games. In the last two weeks, the Sparks are third in defensive rating, allowing 96.0 points per 100 possessions. In what might be a pleasant surprise, the Sparks have been shooting .417 from three, which would be the second highest percentage during those two weeks.
And for once, the Sparks have continuity in their starting line-up. Nneka Ogwumike, Layshia Clarendon, Azurá Stevens, Karlie Samuelson, and Jordin Canada have all started the last five games. Considering they’ve had 15 different starting line-ups this season, this has been very much welcome.
Still, it’s hard to ask them to stop A’ja Wilson (who I still think is very far and away the best player in the league), Chelsea Gray (who is coming off her second career triple-double), Kelsey Plum (who is close to a 50-40-90 season and only Elena Delle Donne has achieved that in the WNBA), Jackie Young (who can’t seem to miss from three with a .477 clip), Kiah Stokes (their bruising center), and Alysha Clark (their super 6th woman who has championship experience with Seattle). And the Aces still hold the best offense and best defense in the W. We would’ve deemed them invincible if it weren’t for those two losses (or is it just one, technically?) against the Liberty.
If there are weaknesses the Aces have, it’s that they’ve played every other day since the 11th and that could get tiring. They also don’t have a very deep bench. They surely missed Candace Parker’s all-around play in that Cup Final.
Can the Sparks upset the Aces and take a fourth straight W? Or can the Aces stay, uh, undefeated at home this season? Either way, this should be an interesting game and, if all the right cards are played, it could very well be a first round playoff preview.
But first, Saturday night.