LOS ANGELES — With so many injuries for the Sparks, Zia Cooke started her first career WNBA game. Curt Miller also went back to the big line-up that they used against Dallas.
It wasn’t pretty to start with. Both teams struggled to shoot early on. The Sparks led, 19-18, after the first quarter.
The Sparks defense turned it up in the second quarter. An electrifying steal and then save by Jordin Canada got the crowd going. It helped spark (I’m so good at wordplay) a 10-3 run for Los Angeles. The Sparks led at the half, 43-34.
Napheesa Collier got the Lynx going in the third as that lead quickly went away. Rachel Banham made a couple of threes; the last one gave the Lynx the lead as they entered the fourth quarter with a 58-57 advantage.
Canada kept the Sparks in the game with her dazzling attacks to the rim. Unfortunately, the Sparks never got over the hump. Kayla McBride got a steal and a lay-up to keep the Lynx lead at three. And later on, Napheesa got a three-point play while simultaneously getting Karlie Samuelson fouled out. Nneka Ogwumike did make a bucket to cut it down to two. Dorka Juhasz split her foul shots afterward to give the Sparks a shot at tying the game or cutting down the deficit to one but Nneka Ogwumike (similar to their last loss in Minnesota) missed a lay-up late. McBride put the game away with free throws.
It was a grind, as head coach Curt Miller said. They packed the paint and Nneka struggled because of it. Canada played all 40 minutes since the team was shorthanded. The Sparks were still in it towards the end because they hang around. But they couldn’t get the big plays.
Coach Miller, despite the loss, still thinks the 5-5 start was something because of all they have gone through so far.
And Jordin Canada said she didn’t have anything to prove after playing a hell of a game.
Canada had a career-best 22 points in the game. Dearica Hamby had 14 while Nneka Ogwumike struggled offensively with 8 points. She did have a team-high 7 assists, though.
Napheesa Collier led the Lynx with 25 points while Kayla McBride scored 16. Nikolina Milic scored all 10 points in the first half and they were crucial as she kept them within distance.
No time to rest as the Sparks home stand continues on Father’s Day. Curt Miller might be familiar with this team but the Sparks face the Connecticut Sun on Sunday. Hopefully, the Sparks have a much healthier team by then.