September 10, 2020
Sparks depth shines in win over Liberty
Their depth was fully on display in the Sparks 96-70 win over the New York Liberty on Tuesday.
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Nneka, Cooper, Williams and Chelsea Gray of the Los Angeles Sparks huddle up in yesterday’s game against the New York Liberty. Photo Credit: Los Angeles Sparks Twitter Account.
Before the 2020 WNBA season began, the Los Angeles Sparks were considered one of the deepest teams in the league even after the opt-outs of Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver. With the season now winding down and the Sparks starting to get hit with some injuries, that depth has been key.
Their depth was fully on display in the Sparks 96-70 win over the New York Liberty on Tuesday. The team was already down two players; Sydney Wiese and Brittney Sykes, who were injured in the team’s previous win over the Chicago Sky. They lost a third player, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, who injured her shoulder in the first quarter and did not return.
Riquna Williams, Te’a Cooper, and Kristine Anigwe, three players who have helped anchor the second unit all season long, all came up big in the win, helping to fill the void from the injuries.
Williams began the season in the starting lineup, but at her request, was moved to the bench. She’s been the team’s main sparkplug in the second unit, averaging 10.8 points per game on the season. She finished with 20 points against the Liberty and shot 4-9 from three-point range.
She’s maintained a high level of play all season and as one of the reserves, she believes her job is to be ready to bring that intensity in the event of an injury.
“I know at any moment my number can be called. That’s the point of me coming off the bench, being prepared for an injury. Whatever happens, I’m always ready no matter what,” Williams said. “Just play, stop thinking so much. When I think too much, I take away from what I can give to the Sparks…just don’t think, just play.”
Also contributing in a big way to the win was Cooper who finished with a career-high 15 points in the first start this season. Cooper has also been a key member of the bench unit with her ability to run the offense, play defense, and knockdown outside shots.
She also finished with three assists and shot 6-11 from the field, including 3-4 from the three-point line. She’s certainly become a candidate to make the All-Rookie team and the trust the team has in her is evident. After the game, she mentioned that the biggest area of growth for her this year has been on the defensive end of the floor.
“The concepts on defense, like where to place my feet and how that matters. The angles, the closeouts, and getting through screens,” Cooper said. “Knowing the coverages and knowing how to set the screen on offense and stuff like that, holding your player off. Stuff like that I’m starting to pick up. It’s been beneficial.”
Also helping in the Sparks win was their commitment to ball movement and making the right pass. The team finished with 32 assists on 37 made field goals. Sparks head coach Derek Fisher credited the team rallying around their injured teammates as the catalyst for pulling out the win.
“They just deserve a lot of credit right now. Seeing Sydney go down, seeing Brittney go down, and TRP. I feel like it almost made the team feel more connected with each other, knowing that three of their sisters are not out there right now,” Fisher said. “It was just good to see tonight I think because they were sharing the basketball. They kept fighting together.”