Sparks seek 7th straight win as they face Connecticut

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Sun defeated the Sparks earlier this season on Father's Day and the Sparks are looking to exact some revenge as they head to Connecticut.

The Los Angeles Sparks (15-18) look like the most dangerous team in the WNBA right now. They won their last 6 games, including an upset against the Aces in Las Vegas. And last time we saw the Sparks play, they pulled off an impressive win in Atlanta after being down 16 points. It feels like the Sparks can do no wrong at the moment.

They do have quite the challenge on Sunday afternoon (morning in the Pacific Time Zone). Waiting for them in the Northeast are the Connecticut Sun (23-11). The Sun are going to be extremely motivated after they lost a 20-point lead and the game in overtime against the New York Liberty last Thursday night. They are mad and they’re not going to take it anymore!

The Sun were the darlings of the W early as they got off to a 12-3 start. But in the midst of that run, they lost Brionna Jones for the season due to a torn Achilles. They’re still doing pretty well but without Jones in the middle, the Sun aren’t as potent of a team as they were in the first quarter of the season.

Still, they have the indestructible Alyssa Thomas and an incredible forever scorer in DeWanna Bonner. Bonner, who just turned 36, is averaging 18.2 points per contest and dropped 30 points in that aforementioned game against the Libs. Alyssa Thomas is having a season for the ages. She’s averaging 15.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, 8.1 assists, and 1.9 steals. By the way, she’s third in steals and she leads the W in rebounds and assists. And she has five triple-doubles this season (a record for most in a WNBA season, of course), which includes a 21-20-12 line against the Lynx. Just incredible.

“Honestly, I don’t really feel like I’m doing anything different,” said Thomas when I asked her about her increased stats during All-Star Weekend. “I’ve been doing this my whole career. But really, a lot of credit goes to my teammates. You really can’t get triple-doubles without them. I just feel like I’m playing real free, loose, and having a lot of fun this year.”

And outside of Thomas and Bonner, they’re still a deep team. Tiffany Hayes came over from Atlanta and has provided some additional offense. Natisha Hiedeman has been a staple in that Sun backcourt. DiJonai Carrington has been a force off the bench and Rebecca Allen has stepped into the starting line-up and does a lot of the dirty work.

With Thomas leading the way, the Sun are still a defensive force as they are second in defensive rating, allowing 98.6 points per 100 possessions. They also force the most turnovers in the league at nearly 16 a game (L.A. had 18 in their first match-up). So the Sparks have to find a way to get points against a brick wall defense like the Sun’s.

It’s not like the Sparks would immediately wave a white flag towards the Sun. Their first game was a close affair before the Sun broke the deadlock and scored the last 9 points of the game. They’re going to have to watch shooters like Bonner and Carrington and possibly get the ball away from Alyssa Thomas’s hands. It’s going to be fun to see the Sparks defense attempt to break Connecticut’s offense down.

It’ll also be interesting to see the Sun try to stop the Sparks’ barrage from afar. In the last 8 games, the Sparks have shot .417 from three. I have mentioned it here for the last few games but they have shot very well from behind the arc even though they don’t have the reputation of shooting threes. The Sun happen to be the best in defending the three in terms of percentage; opponents shoot only .310 from three against Connecticut. So that’s something to definitely watch out for.

Nneka Ogwumike had 19 points and 15 boards in that first game but she notably only scored two points and grabbed zero rebounds in the fourth quarter. With the way she’s performed in the clutch as of late, I highly doubt we’ll see a repeat of that fourth period performance. We’ll also have to watch out for Azura Stevens possibly getting a lot of shots inside and Layshia Clarendon and Jordin Canada blitzing the hell out of the Sun’s backcourt.

Head coach Curt Miller gets another shot at defeating his old team. Either way, it’s a huge game for the Sparks as they continue to position themselves higher in the playoff picture. And Connecticut will try to keep pace with the second-seeded Liberty.

Let’s see if the Sparks train keeps rolling.