It was good while it lasted.
The Sparks came into Connecticut with a 6-game winning streak but a second half drought doomed their chances of extending that surge. In the end, the Connecticut Sun shined way too bright for the Los Angeles Sparks, 83-68.
It was quite a battle early. Both teams went back and forth in the first quarter, which ended with the Sparks leading, 20-19. Then at the start of the second, the Sparks started with an 8-2 run as they made things sloppy for the Sun. But Los Angeles couldn’t make shots in the next few possessions so the Sun were able to counter with 7 straight points to tie the game at 28.
The Sun shot lights out in the second period as they wrested the lead from L.A. However, the Sun uncharacteristically continued to turn the ball over as the Sparks made it difficult for them at times to get a shot off. Connecticut led, 43-38, by the halftime break.
Connecticut continued to make shots as they extended their lead to 55-46. But back-to-back Karlie Samuelson threes and a three-point play the old-fashioned way by Nneka Ogwumike cut the deficit down to 57-55. Still, the Sparks had chances to tie the game but they couldn’t make that three-pointer they needed. After Ty Harris made a three to extend the lead to 63-57, Jordin Canada snatched the ball from her in the next possession. However, Canada blew the breakaway lay-up and from then on, the Sparks would leave points on the table for a long while.
The Sun’s defense would get overwhelming over time. Three-point shots would go in and out. Free throws would be missed. Overall, the Sparks would only score five points in a 12-minute span while the Sun would score 21 in that same period of time. The Sun would win going away and the streak is over.
I said in the game preview that Connecticut is the best at forcing turnovers. While the Sun ended with 19 turnovers, they did have 12 in the first half, which meant they took better care of the rock after halftime. The Sparks only had four giveaways in the first 20 minutes but, like I said, that defense became more stout in the second for Connecticut. L.A. had 12 turnovers in the second half.
Another stat that really stood out? Offensive boards. The Sun had 7 while the Sparks only had one single offensive board. That led to a 12-5 advantage for the Sun in second chance points. And while the Sun didn’t shoot very well from behind the arc (8 for 26, .308), the Sparks would have the dog laughing at them multiple times in Duck Hunt: 6 for 21 (.286). We also mentioned in that preview that the Sun allow the lowest percentage from behind the arc.
It was tough for Nneka Ogwumike and Jordin Canada to get it going as they were in foul trouble. Nneka only ended with 11 points and four boards while Jordin scored only 8. She did have four steals, though. The Sparks were led by Azura Stevens with 17 points while Layshia Clarendon ended with 13 points and 6 assists.
The Sun were led by Alyssa Thomas as she fell two dimes short of a trip-dub (17-10-8). Connecticut had 6 players in double figures and when everyone is getting those buckets, it’s tough to stop a team, especially when they aren’t matched offensively.
The Sparks are now 15-19 but they still hold the 8th and final playoff spot. They go back home to Los Angeles and face the Chicago Sky on Tuesday. That is a huge game as the Sky are 13-21 and want to cut into the Sparks’ lead in the standings.
L.A. hopes to start a new winning streak in two days. As for former Sun head coach and now-Sparks head coach Curt Miller? Revenge against his old team will have to wait for about another week.