August 9, 2020 

Defense, ball movement key in Sparks win

The Sparks are now 4-3

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Chelsea Gray #12 of the Los Angeles Sparks shoots the ball against the Las Vegas Aces on August 7, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

When the Las Vegas Aces made a late run last game, the defense folded and was unable to get the necessary stops to close out the game. The result was a lot different on Sunday afternoon for the Los Angeles Sparks.

After taking a ten-point halftime lead, the Sparks found themselves trying to withstand a spirited Minnesota Lynx run. They were able to put forth the effort defensively and hold off the Lynx as they ended up rallied to a 97-81 win.

The Lynx outscored the Sparks 23-18 in the third quarter, but the Sparks scored 31 points of their own in the fourth quarter while holding Minnesota to only 20. After the game, Sparks head coach Derek Fisher attributed the improved defensive effort to the increased ball movement throughout the game.

“Because we were sharing the basketball, everybody was playing together offensively, the contributions were evenly distributed in terms of shot opportunities. That’s what holds your team together, that’s how you let each other know you’re here to play together. That’s what you rely on when the game gets hard. You have to look out for each other on the defensive end,” Fisher said. “If you haven’t been sharing the basketball and playing together offensively, that’s a really hard decision to have to make time and time again as a player. It’s tiring, it’s draining, and it carries over on to the defensive end. I think because we moved the basketball offensively, there was more energy on the defensive end because it wasn’t as hard to score. We did it with a pass instead of trying to do everything off the dribble.”

The increased ball movement was something that Fisher said the team had made a point to address this game. Against the Aces, the offense became stagnant at times with players taking turns attacking off the dribble. They finished with 18 total assists. Against Minnesota, they had 27 assists on 38 made field goals.

A big part of that was Candace Parker playing the role she’s played best her entire career, the point forward. She was also featured as the center in some small-ball lineups and she was able to take advantage of her skill-set and keep the offense flowing. She ended up one assist short of a triple-double. She reiterated Fisher’s stance that better ball movement was something they stressed pregame.

“We have so many weapons, Coach Fisher has been talking about moving the ball. Every night it could be a different person that the ball gets moved to. I think that myself, Chelsea, Nneka, we know that we’re going to bring people,” Parker said. “When we’re able to get rid of it, whether it’s an assist directly or a hockey assist, we play really well when we’re free and we’re moving. That’s kind of what the purpose was today.”

The small-ball lineup with Parker at center was pretty effective for much of the game. It was a lineup that also featured Seimone Augustus at power forward, a role that she hasn’t played throughout her illustrious career.

She’s been effective at the four with her ability to shoot from three and put the ball on the floor. It’s been an adjustment that she’s handled well so far.

“It’s been a smooth transition because we play so open, four-out, one-in, or whatever the case may be. It’s not like the traditional four where I’m doing a lot of screening and stuff like that,” Augustus said. “They’ve kind of put me in positions where I can be effective, maybe use my iso-skills. Or if I am in screens, I can use my ability to shoot the ball. So it hasn’t been that big of a transition, it’s mainly the spacing and stuff like that, that I’ve had to learn.”

Written by David Yapkowitz

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