August 12, 2020
Los Angeles Sparks have found their identity
Consecutive wins reflect ability to 'build connection'
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PALMETTO, FL- AUGUST 11: Candace Parker #3 of the Los Angeles Sparks drives to the basket against the New York Liberty on August 11, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida.
It took a couple of weeks into the season, but the Los Angeles Sparks finally were able to muster up consecutive wins. After dispatching the Minnesota Lynx over the weekend, the Sparks knocked off the New York Liberty, 93-78 on Tuesday.
At the forefront of the Sparks improved play has been a more efficient offense combined with a potent defense. Against the Liberty, the Sparks shot a franchise-best 11-for-17 from the three-point line. On the other end, they forced the Liberty into 27 turnovers.
After the game, Sparks head coach Derek Fisher attributed the inspired level of play to the team finally becoming acclimated with one another having added six new players to the rotation, and starting to round into real game shape.
“I think we’re continuing to build connection as a team. We have several new players and personalities that are contributing a lot to what we’re trying to build right now,” Fisher said. “As we continue to get in better game condition, I think we’re able to play harder for longer, that’s helping us out a lot. I think we’re trusting each other more with the basketball in terms of making the right play at the right time with our passing, and it’s energizing our defense. It’s helping us to get more stops on the defensive end and we’re able to take advantage when we get out into the open court.”
A big part of the increased defensive energy has come from Brittney Sykes. Sykes has helped steady the second unit so far, but with Tierra Ruffin-Pratt currently sidelined due to an ankle injury, Sykes got her first start of the season against New York.
Sykes finished with 15 points on 66.7 percent shooting from the field, but perhaps, more importantly, was her energy on the defensive end of the floor. She continually hounded and harassed whoever she was guarding and routinely applied pressure on ball in the backcourt.
She’s almost settled into somewhat of an Alana Beard role, whose job is to come in, knock down some threes, and lock up defensively on the wing. Fisher noted that the rest of the team followed her lead on the defensive end and Sykes echoed that sentiment as well.
“I knew coming in, their guard was their main ball-handler. I take it upon myself to lock down on defense every game, every time I step on the floor,” Sykes said. “Whether it’s starting or coming off the bench, I want to make sure that whenever somebody sees me in the game, they know the defensive energy is going to turn up a lot more.”
Another strong catalyst to the better performances has been Riquna Williams. Last season, Williams became a sparkplug for the team when Fisher put her in the starting lineup to help avoid slow starts and give the team a little jolt.
She started off this season in the starting lineup, but has since moved to the bench; a role she says she asked for. She’s had back to back strong games, and she matched Sydney Wiese with a team-high 17 points against the Liberty.
“Just in my comfort zone, honestly. Everybody that knows me, knows I enjoy coming off the bench. It’s always been one of my favorites, but I’m also a team player,” Williams said. “I’m going to do whatever the Sparks need me to do to get the job done. I just enjoy the game so much and I get so much joy at changing the tempo of the game, bringing the energy. If the energy is low, pick it up. If it’s high, keep it there.”
Written by David Mendez-Yapkowitz
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.