The shorthanded Sparks continue on their freefall as they went to Phoenix and fell short against them, 78-72.
Things went from bad to worse for the Sparks early. They already came into the game with only 8 players when Dearica Hamby hurt her ankle. She was deemed out for the rest of the game and the Sparks were down to 7 active players.
Meanwhile, the Mercury went to Brittney Griner often. She was nearly unstoppable the entire game. So unstoppable that she was even able to get the first dunk of the WNBA season.
Still, the Sparks managed to keep it close until the Merc scored the last 6 points of the half. Phoenix led, 42-36, at the break.
While Griner did a lot of work, it was Diana Taurasi that led the Mercury to an 8-0 boost late in the third. A Rae Burrell three prevented the Sparks from going into the fourth quarter down by double figures. Phoenix led, 59-50, entering the last 10 minutes.
The Sparks trailed, 68-55, with 6 minutes left. But helped with a successful challenge on a Jordin Canada foul call, Nneka Ogwumike went on a personal 8-0 run to get back in the game.
Jordin Canada would make consecutive threes. Then Azura Stevens split her free throws to cut the deficit to 72-70. Unfortunately, that’s where the rally stopped as the Mercury made the necessary foul shots and the Sparks couldn’t make any more shots.
It’s just hard to keep a game going when the roster is really lacking personnel. They entered the game with 8 players. Dearica Hamby’s ankle injury put them down to 7. Jordin Canada fouled out late in the game to put them to 6 but imagine if she fouled out earlier.
Azura Stevens played the entire game. Nneka Ogwumike played just under 37 minutes. A still-recovering Jasmine Thomas had 28 minutes. And their only bigs after Hamby left were Azura and Nneka. The rest of the team were all guards.
And it’s especially tough when they’re going against the 6’8” Griner. Of course, the Merc took advantage; they’d be fools not to. The Sparks, as always, were admirable for staying in the game but the amount of injuries on this team is just absurd.
Phoenix went to Griner a lot. She ended with 29 points (12/18 shooting, .667) and 11 rebounds. And one dunk! Diana Taurasi scored 22 while Moriah Jefferson handled the playmaking with 11 points, 8 assists, and 5 steals.
Nneka Ogwumike continued her high-level steady season with her 10th double-double (20 points, 14 boards). Jordin Canada’s late push helped her get to 16 points while today’s Iron Woman, Azura Stevens, went for 13 points, 8 rebounds, and four steals.
We’ll see who’s available on Wednesday as the beat-up Sparks take on the 17-2 Las Vegas Aces in the last game before the All-Star break. Probably not the opponent the Sparks want but it just never stops for them. Hopefully, we’ll see more Sparks on the court than in the training room in three nights.