LOS ANGELES — The Sparks finished the first quarter of the season at 5-5. They started their home stand on Friday but the Minnesota Lynx ended up defeating them once again.
Still, head coach Curt Miller provided an excellent perspective about their 5-5 record. The Sparks have gone through so many injuries this season and they were in 9 of the 10 games they played. He knows that the team can be something if they’re healthy.
And once again, we know they’re that going to be that for a while. Layshia Clarendon will continue to be out with their foot injury. Lexie Brown is still out with her non-COVID illness and her not being in action was definitely felt in Friday’s loss. Nia Clouden is also out due to a knee injury.
With that in mind, the Sparks signed Destanni Henderson before Friday’s game and Rae Burrell on Saturday to hardship contracts. Destanni previously played for the Indiana Fever and was a teammate of Zia Cooke’s in South Carolina. Burrell played a game with the Sparks on May 27th; she scored five points and grabbed four boards.
As for their opponents on Father’s Day? The Sparks draw the Connecticut Sun.
The Sun made the WNBA Finals last year but lost to the Las Vegas Aces in four games. And in the offseason, 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones was traded to the New York Liberty.
It didn’t matter. The Sun are still a loaded team and have an 8-3 record.
DeWanna Bonner continues to be an excellent scorer as she leads the team in that department with 17.5 points per. Brionna Jones has emerged to become a two-time all-star; she also won Sixth Woman of the Year last season.
And then there’s the nearly indestructible Alyssa Thomas. We heard it all the time in broadcasts; Alyssa plays with two torn labrums on her shoulders. She sat out most of the 2021 season with a torn Achilles before coming back late to play in the postseason. In last year’s Finals, she had two triple-doubles and those were the first in WNBA Finals history, too.
Despite her funky shooting form, Alyssa Thomas just gets the job done. And she gets it done very well.
The Sun also have Tiffany Hayes, who was fantastic in Atlanta for a decade. Natasha Hiedeman’s role has increased more with the Sun throughout the years. Rebecca Allen came over from the Jonquel Jones trade; she was an excellent role player for the Liberty. DiJonai Carrington and Ty Harris provide depth in the guard position.
Connecticut will make teams work very hard. The Sparks still lead in forcing turnovers but the Sun are second in that department. What’s more is that the Sun take advantage of it the best; they lead in points off turnovers. While the Sparks still lead in fewest turnovers, we’ve seen them cough it off in the most inopportune times. It’ll be tough to do that against the Sun but it gives them a better chance of winning if they take care of the rock.
The Lynx packed it up in the paint against the Sparks on Friday and it led to Nneka Ogwumike’s worst offensive game of the season (8 points). While it was still great that she was able to make some plays for her teammates (7 assists), the Sparks will need her scoring. Lexie Brown’s absence was really felt since she’s their best perimeter weapon and she could create space for the team. The Sparks did make 9 threes against the Lynx but they seemed more willing to give L.A. those looks.
Jordin Canada did score 22 points (career-best!) against Minnesota and she’ll continue to create havoc on both sides. Dearica Hamby is averaging 15.5 points in her last four. Chiney Ogwumike came back after being absent for a few games. And Azurá Stevens is getting healthier and finding a better flow as she’s started the last two games.
The Sparks defense has continued to be excellent but that 5-5 record also shows that they’ve been a little inconsistent as they have fallen short at the end of games. And this one’s going to be a little tougher than usual as the Sun have the second best record in the team.
What’s more is that Curt Miller coached the Sun for the last 8 years so he’s definitely familiar with that team. Stephanie White (who coached the Fever from 2015-16) has done an excellent job with this year’s Sun. We’ll see if Los Angeles can make the Sun set on Father’s Day.