August 16, 2020
Defense powering Sparks win streak
L.A. has won four in a row
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Sydney Wiese #24 of the Los Angeles Sparks drives tothe basket against the Indiana Fever on August 15, 2020 at Feld EntertainmentCenter in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via GettyImages)
The Los Angeles Sparks have been strong offensively the past several games, but they’ve been equally impressive defensively. In their 90-76 win over the Indiana Fever on Saturday, they forced the Fever into 22 turnovers. A couple of games before that against the New York Liberty, they managed to force 27 turnovers.
From the starting lineup to the bench, the defensive intensity has certainly picked up the past few games and has helped fuel the Sparks current four-game win streak. The bench in particular has been better on the defensive end than other teams starting lineups. During the streak, the Sparks have held their opponents to 40.9 percent shooting from the field.
Compare that to the first six games of the season when the Sparks were allowing opposing teams to shoot 45.9 percent from the field, and it’s evident that they’ve made adjustments on that end of the floor.
Before the game started, Sparks head coach Derek Fisher stressed the importance of maintaining defensive consistency amid playing several games right after the other.
“My hope is that our defensive focus and intensity can carry over to this game,” Fisher said. “When you’re battling a little bit of fatigue, you can’t just rely on running up and down on the court, shooting shots and making threes. You try to get some stops and make the game a little easier for yourself.”
After the win over the Fever, Nneka Ogwumike attributed the improvement defensively on the team starting to trust one another on that end.
“I’ve seen commitment, I’ve seen trust, and that’s really the foundation of our defense. To trust that there’s people behind you, to trust yourself guarding one-on-one, and committing to that foundation that [Coach] Fish has laid out for us,” Ogwumike said. “It’s coming together quite nicely. I feel as though we still have a long way to go for us to be able to string things together. But we’re well on our way.”
In addition to the defense, a huge part of the Sparks win streak has been the high-level of production from Riquna Williams. Williams was a starter to begin the season, but at her request, she joined the second unit. She’s been on a tear as of late, averaging 18 points a game during this streak on 61.5 percent shooting from the floor.
Against the Fever, she put up 21 points on 7-12 shooting from the three-point line. She’s currently tied for first in the league with made three-pointers (30) and on Saturday, she tied a franchise record with most three-point shots made in a single game (7).
“I’m probably best when I’m coming off the bench, I’m able to give more. I don’t have to think as much as I would in the first group,” Williams said after the game. “I think the biggest thing for me was getting back to having fun…This year I came in free, nothing hanging over me, and able to give my all to the team.”