Sparks finish mini-road trip against the Dallas Wings

The Sparks have a chance to go back above .500 with a win over the Wings.

The Los Angeles Sparks stand with a .500 record at 4-4. They could easily be 6-2 but blown leads on the road have prevented them from that. Their last two games on the road have not been great as they lost a 21-point lead against Seattle and then their 11-point lead in the fourth quarter was erased by the Minnesota Lynx last Sunday.

But there’s not much they can do about that now. They move on to the next game on the road. The Sparks head into Dallas, Texas for a date with the 5-4 Wings. An early afternoon game, in fact (Dallas time, that is; it would be a 10 AM game here in Los Angeles!).

When you think Dallas Wings, you think of all-world scorer Arike Ogunbowale. She’s not shooting her best at three right now but she can easily explode for a game like she did against the Mercury last Friday. Arike put up 35 against them. So the Sparks will no doubt concentrate on limiting her. Ogunbowale is currently averaging 22.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.6 steals a game.

Satou Sabally is one of the most improved players this season thus far. She’s been a double-double machine as she has done that in 7 of the 9 games she’s played. Sabally has averages of 21.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.8 steals. She is a handful. And, by the way, she was just named Western Conference Player of the Week.

They also have added experience as they acquired three-time WNBA champion Natasha Howard as well as 2020 Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield. Howard is having a hell of a season (16.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 1.2 steals per game) and she might be the missing piece the Wings needed to get to the next level. Crystal was having a good bounceback season until she hurt her ankle. She is slated to be out for Wednesday’s game.

Dallas also has a talented core such as fierce point guard Veronica Burton, veteran Odyssey Sims, center Kalani Brown, and rookie Maddy Siegrist. This team scores a lot (second in points), puts up a lot of threes (second most in the league; they may be last in percentage but volume can overwhelm a lot), crash the glass (most boards in the league), and take care of the ball (fewest turnovers). In many ways, they’re like the Sparks; new Wings head coach Latricia Trammell (who was an assistant for the Sparks the last four seasons) also preaches defense.

Curt Miller will also mention defense but what they can’t do is fall apart. Before this becomes a recurring theme, they’ll have to play their brand of ball for all 40 minutes. Teams might decide to trap the Sparks toward the end of games to see if they’ll fold. After all, they already did that in their last two road games. On offense, Nneka Ogwumike has overpowered everyone in sight. They’ll have to depend on her when it’s time to finish the game. Speaking of most improved, Lexie Brown is definitely a candidate this year now that she’s showing she’s more than a perimeter player. They’re going to be missing Layshia Clarendon for the next 4-6 weeks so they’re going to be missing the leadership that they’ve provided early in the season. The Sparks will have to lean on each other more than ever.

So yeah, the Sparks may look unflappable but they’ve melted down a bit in those last two losses. To show that they’re a better team, the Sparks will have to take care of the ball and not panic when things aren’t going their way.

And if they can do that, they’ll be back above .500 entering their five-game home stand.

By the way, I’d be remiss if I don’t give a shoutout to a huge fan of the Dallas Wings, the Chicken Man. Hope you’re doing well!