Sparks take on Fever for first time this season

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The Sparks will try to snap their 8-game losing streak when they face Indiana.

LOS ANGELES — Not much as changed for the Sparks since before the All-Star break, when they had lost six in a row. Though they returned some players in what has been an injury-riddled season, things haven’t improved in terms of their record.

The Sparks suffered their seventh straight loss in a close game against Minnesota and lost their eighth straight to a hot Dallas Wings team.

Though the returns of Lexie Brown and Layshia Clarendon were positive, Chiney Ogwumike still has a foot injury and probably won’t be back until the end of the season. And now Karlie Samuelson, who sat out against Dallas, has been nursing a knee injury. She is doubtful for Tuesday’s home game against the Indiana Fever. Nia Clouden is still out and Katie Lou Samuelson is on maternity leave.

The Sparks (7-15) take on the Fever (6-16), who are in town for two games with the second one set for Thursday.

The Fever is led by rookie sensation Aliyah Boston, who was No. 1 draft from South Carolina. Boston is averaging 14.8 points and 8.0 rebounds while leading the WNBA in field-goal percentage (.602). She has been nearly unstoppable in the post and has had some monster games this season. Boston had 25 points and 11 rebounds against Chicago on June 6. A week later, she had 23 points and 14 rebounds with six assists against the Washington Mystics. And she put up 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds against the defending champion Las Vegas Aces on June 26. Boston has been a terrifying presence inside and she figures to only get better.

Kelsey Mitchell has been a steady presence for the Fever. In her sixth season, she earned her first All-Star selection. Mitchell has been an excellent scorer, averaging 16.6 points and shooting 36.2 percent on three-pointers.

The Fever also have NaLyssa Smith, the second pick overall from the 2022 draft. She’s the team’s second- leading scorer at 15.6 points and the leading rebounder at 9.7. It gives the Fever a formidable frontcourt duo for years to come.

Indiana also has Erica Wheeler, who played for the Sparks for a season. Her emotional All-Star performance from 2019 has been an inspiration as she went from an undrafted player to the become the game’s MVP. The Fever have quite a glut of guards with Lexie Hull, Kristy Wallace, Victoria Vivians and rookie Grace Berger. Indiana also acquired Amanda Zahui B. a few weeks ago in a trade.

But it hasn’t exactly translated into wins. The Fever also has had an eight-game losing streak this season and has lost nine of 10 overall.

Indiana doesn’t attempt a lot of three-pointers and is last in the WNBA in that category. The Fever like to play in the paint and are certainly willing to slow down the pace. Often though, they get off to slow starts; their net rating in the first quarter is atrocious. On Sunday, the Fever gave up a record 44-point quarter against the New York Liberty. The Sparks will look to take advantage of the Fever’s first-quarter struggles with a fast start of their own.