Sparks start home stand with rematch against the Lynx

The Lynx defeated the Sparks last Sunday in Minnesota and now the Sparks get their shot at revenge in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES — The Sparks are back home after a nice little two-game road trip. Well, maybe nice is a bit overstating it. They did finish the trek with a win over the Dallas Wings. But the problem was that they began with what could be described as a disappointing loss to the Minnesota Lynx, who are currently 2-7.

Well, the Sparks start a five-game home stand and it actually begins on Friday night with that same Lynx team. The Lynx actually haven’t played since their triumphant comeback win over Los Angeles so they are well-rested for this rematch. Of course, the Sparks are looking for redemption against Minnesota.

The thing was that they had that first Lynx game well in hand. I’ve probably gone over this ad nauseum but they blew an 11-point lead with under four minutes left. What they did different in Dallas? They took better care of the ball and they didn’t seem to be rushing it as they finished the job in Texas.

What’s more is that we seem to be getting better performances from Dearica Hamby, which I’ll remind you that she is only three months removed from giving birth. To her, this is probably all she knows but to us, it’s a remarkable achievement what she’s doing. Dearica scored a season-best 23 points and grabbed 8 boards against the Wings on Wednesday. Playing professional basketball at the highest level after what her body went through is astounding. A lot of us already complain about just walking to the fridge.

I talked about how Nneka Ogwumike has been having a hell of a season. You can even argue that it’s her best season of her career. She has just been a rock for this team and has been giving us consistent performances. A lot of 20-10s in her campaign this year. She’s been such a post presence for the Sparks and, at times, Nneka has been unstoppable. Curt Miller mentioned she doesn’t get enough credit about what she does but we certainly see what’s going around here in L.A.

Jordin Canada can be a bit wild at times but she’s certainly done a great job running the team and she’s been an irritant on the defensive end. Azurá Stevens is starting to get her legs under her and once she’s completely acclimated, she’s going to be one hell of a versatile player for L.A. Lexie Brown continues to prove that she can be a three-level scorer (though she is out for this game) and Karlie Samuelson has given so much to this team whether it’s outside shooting or diving for the loose ball. Once Layshia Clarendon is healthy, they can provide stability on the court with their ability to play multiple positions. Hopefully, Chiney Ogwumike can also be back on the court sooner or later (listed as questionable).

With that said, the Sparks are 5-4 but should probably be much better. On paper, they should take care of teams like the Lynx.

We know Napheesa Collier plays big. We also know about Kayla McBride and Tiffany Mitchell providing the artillery from the perimeter. But they do have to watch out for the names that aren’t exactly mentioned much like Nikolina Milic, Dorka Juhász (their second round pick from early spring), and Bridget Carleton (who made back-to-back threes to put the Lynx ahead for good). They’re going to miss Jessica Shepard’s rebounding (she’s not with the team due to illness). Diamond Miller and Aerial Powers are also not playing due to their ankle ailments.

But you know that Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve will have these ladies fight. Everyone in the league is talented. But what the Sparks should do is stick with their game plan for the whole 40 minutes like they did with Dallas and take the win instead of holding on to it.

A win here could set the tone for this whole home stand for the Los Angeles Sparks. If they get on a roll, then the entire league could take notice. And they might look at the Sparks as contenders instead of a franchise that’s taking it one step at a time in its rebuilding.