The Los Angeles Sparks are 7-11 and on a downward spiral at the moment as injuries continued to mount on the team. And let’s get this out of the way; the Sparks will be missing 5 players from their rotation (not including Katie Lou Samuelson, who’s on maternity leave). The latest one to fall to the injury bug was Katie Lou’s sister, Karlie, who hurt her foot against the Atlanta Dream on Wednesday. As if the Sparks already had trouble spreading the floor, right?
The Sparks are playing in Phoenix against the Mercury on Sunday afternoon. While not as severe as the Sparks, the Mercury have had to deal with their own injuries. Diana Taurasi didn’t play on Friday but she is back for Sunday. Brittney Griner has missed three games. So has Sophie Cunningham. Shey Peddy has missed 8 total games and is slated to miss her 9th game on Sunday. And Skylar Diggins-Smith has been on maternity leave this season.
Not only that but the Mercury have gone through a coaching change as Vanessa Nygaard has been replaced by Nikki Blue. With the injuries and turnover on the roster and staff, the Mercury have not been great at 3-14, which is the worst in the W this season.
Still, the Mercury are a talented team. After all, Diana Taurasi is the greatest scorer in WNBA history. She is shooting .301 from three (which would be the worst of her career if we’re not counting her 6-game stint in 2019). But even with her shooting woes, we know what Diana is capable of. Brittney Griner has been incredible this season and she seemed to not have missed a beat after all she has gone through. She’s scoring 19.3 points while shooting a career-best .597. That is remarkable.
And let’s not forget their supporting cast in Sophie Cunningham (12.1 points per game), Michaela Onyenwere (10.8 points per game), and Moriah Jefferson (team-best .391 from three). They don’t lack in firepower at all. It’s just that the Mercury have struggled in many facets of the game like defense (second worst in the league), three-point shooting (third worst), turnovers (most in the league), and fouling (second most).
Still, it’ll be a challenge for the Sparks as they are badly shorthanded. As of now, they’re going into Sunday with just 8 active players on the roster. And two of them are hardship players (Destanni Henderson and Rae Burrell). So Curt Miller is going to have to find a combination that can overwhelm the Mercury.
Zia Cooke definitely did that at Opening Night against Phoenix (we all remember her 14 points in the second period of that game). Zia has, at least, gotten it going offensively with three straight games with double figures. And they might need that again on Sunday. Destanni Henderson hasn’t exactly set anything on fire since her pair of good games against Dallas. And Rae Burrell has provided some good minutes ever since she re-signed on her second hardship deal.
Those are all the likely players coming off the bench for the Sparks. They’ll have to find something to mesh with the rest of the team (Nneka Ogwumike, Dearica Hamby, Azura Stevens, Jasmine Thomas, and Jordin Canada). It really is sad that these are the only players available for the Sparks. They have no Lexie Brown to go to on the clutch like she did in their second game against the Merc. So while Phoenix has the worst record in the league, can the Sparks maintain in these 40 minutes with their lack of depth on Sunday?
They’re going to have to if they want to snap this dreadful four-game skid.