August 6, 2020 

Chelsea Gray, Candace Parker present endless mismatches

The Sparks keep finding ways to maximize this duo

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Chelsea Gray #12 of the Los Angeles Sparks handles the ball against the Connecticut Sun on July 30, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida.

It just took a couple of ‘gimmies’ to get Chelsea Gray going. The veteran point guard scored efficiently in the paint to start the game in the Los Angeles Sparks 86-75 win over the Indiana Fever on Wednesday night.

She repeatedly posted up Fever rookie Julie Allemand, getting easy baskets and helping set the tone for the rest of the game. Gray, who hasn’t shot particularly well to start this season, had one of her best games to date with 16 points on 63.6 percent shooting.

She also dished out five assists, the biggest one coming late in the fourth quarter when the Fever were making one final push when she found Brittney Sykes for a layup to shut the door for good. With the slow start the team had been suffering from in recent games, a focus on early assertiveness on both ends of the court was something that was discussed within the team.

“We just wanted to come with a lot of energy, a lot of fight on both ends of the floor. We were aggressive, we were the aggressor coming out, “Gray said after the game. “Defensively, there were spreads where we looked really, really great. And then we had lulls where they would come back into the game…Those are the times in which we have to figure out why is that happening, why is that inconsistent.”

Gray had some assistance from an equally aggressive Candace Parker. Parker was active early, asserting herself in the post as well as getting out in transition. She also was strong on the defensive end, protecting the paint against Fever drives and post-ups.

It was a strong all-around effort for the veteran star who finished with a team-high 18 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and one steal. It was her third straight double-double. Parker was pleased by her effort, and the team as a whole, but cautioned against thinking the Sparks have solved their slow start woes until they can prove they can do this consistently and win consecutive games.

“I think it’s a lot about confidence and a lot about activity. I feel like our team is at our best and I’m at my best when I’m active,” Parker said after the game. “And it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m scoring. It can mean facilitating and generating offense, it could mean generating the defense, the rebounding is huge in what we need to do. So I would say overall, a good start, but I’m not going to give credit until you’re able to string some wins together…at some point, Candace has got to step up and lead and string two victories together.”

The only real blemish in an otherwise solid night was the loss of Nneka Ogwumike who left the game early with a hamstring injury. She didn’t return to the game and Sparks head coach Derek Fisher suggested that she’d possibly be day-to-day.

“We don’t think it’s severe in any way, she’s definitely going to be fine, but we’ll see how things are tomorrow before we speak to what her availability will be like,” Fisher said after the game.”If there’s any chance at all that she’s not as close to 100% as possible, we’re just going to have to be really smart about whether to take any risk at all at this point in the season. But we’re confident she’ll be okay.”

David has been with The Next team since the High Post Hoops days when he joined the staff in 2018. He is based in Los Angeles and covers the LA Sparks, Pac-12 Conference, Big West Conference and some high school as well.

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