ATLANTA — The Los Angeles Sparks are molten lava right now. They’ve won five games in a row. They scored an upset against the defending champion Las Vegas Aces and gave them their first regular season home loss. The Sparks followed that up by having their biggest margin of victory this season as they crushed the Mercury by 29 points.
Before those triumphs, they defeated the Atlanta Dream on Aug. 12th after coming back from 11 down in the first half. And wouldn’t you know it? The Sparks are facing the Dream on Friday. This, my friends, is called a segue.
The Atlanta Dream are 16-17 this season. With the Sparks on a stampede to the postseason, they’re suddenly only 1 1/2 games behind the 6th seed Atlanta. So this lone Friday WNBA contest will be huge in the standings.
The Dream might be below .500 but they’re as dangerous as any team in the W. We all know what Rhyne Howard did to the Sparks in their first match-up but if you need a quick reminder, she dropped 43 points right after she was snubbed for an all-star spot (she was eventually put in as an injury replacement). Allisha Gray was huge in the fourth quarter in their second match-up (she had 23 points) and the Dream won by double figs again. And Cheyenne Parker had a double-double in that same game (14 points, 11 rebounds).
Atlanta had a huge surge earlier this season; those two wins against L.A. were an early part of their 7-game winning streak. But they are 2-6 in their last 8 games and that includes three losses to the Las Vegas Aces. The remaining schedule does look a little more favorable but they also lost to Phoenix and Seattle (who are part of said remaining games) earlier this month.
As mentioned earlier, the Sparks defeated the Dream nearly two weeks ago. They took away shots from the ATL stars (Gray notably only took 6 shots and finished with 8 points). And while the Dream did lead after halftime, the Sparks put on the clamps and went on a gamebreaking 15-2 run in the third quarter. Los Angeles packed the paint and, outside of a huge fourth from Aari McDonald, they mostly kept the Dream at bay.
The Sparks took the physicality to the Dream. So we’ll see how Atlanta counters. They’ll try to find ways to get shots for their trio of all-stars, for sure, but it’s going to be tough to break the Sparks defense that we have seen over the last 2 1/2 weeks. Jordin Canada started off the fourth quarter in their last match-up with two steals that both led to lay-ups. Nneka Ogwumike was her usual consistent self on both ends. The ever-so-aggressive Layshia Clarendon put in a much-needed 16 points. And Azura Stevens continues to be a star at the power forward spot.
We can’t speak enough on how the continuity and chemistry have paid dividends for the Sparks. They’ve had the same starting line-up for the last 7 games and there are a lot more defined roles for this team. Will we see the Sparks get their 6th straight win? Or will we see the Atlanta Dream that thoroughly dominated Los Angeles in their first two match-ups?
All dramatic questions aside, this should be a hell of a game.