September 19, 2020
Sparks season ends in disappointment for the second straight year
A year ago, after losing in a three-game sweep to the Connecticut Sun in the semifinals, the Sparks fell once again to the Sun, 73-59
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PALMETTO, FL – SEPTEMBER 17: Alyssa Thomas #25 of the Connecticut Sun drives to the basket against the Los Angeles Sparks during the WNBA playoffs on September 17, 2020, at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by NedDishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
It was another disappointing ending for the Los Angeles Sparks. A year ago, after losing in a three-game sweep to the Connecticut Sun in the semifinals, the Sparks fell once again to the Sun, 73-59, this time in second-round single-elimination after receiving a first-round bye.
The Sparks knew it was going to be an uphill battle from the get-go as they received word they would be without Nneka Ogwumike due to illness. Without her, the Sparks struggled to score in the first quarter and found themselves trailing 22-8 after one, their lowest-scoring quarter of the season.
In the second quarter, the Sparks were able to pull within six points a couple of times but could get no closer the rest of the way as the poor start was too insurmountable to overcome. In the second half, the Sparks defensive energy shined on a few possessions, but they were just unable to string together any rhythm on the offensive end.
They shot 33.3 percent from the field and 11.1 percent (2-18) from the three-point line. They were never able to pull within single digits in the second half.
In the last couple of days of the season, the Sparks suffered a rash of injuries and limped into the playoffs on a two-game losing streak. After the game, Sparks head coach Derek Fisher thought that played a factor in the team’s playoff fate.
“We just ran out of steam towards the end of the season, we lost so many bodies and we just haven’t been able to get ourselves back over the last couple of weeks,” Fisher said. “That happens during certain seasons and it’s not our time at the moment. We’ll come back and be better for it, and that’s all we can do at the moment.”
Unlike last season, when Candace Parker watched the Sparks season slip away mostly from the bench in the second half of Game 3 against Connecticut, she was out on the floor the entire game this time and went down swinging.
It had been a resurgent season for the former MVP who battled injuries last year and never could string together any consistency. She left it all on the court and finished with 22 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, and two blocked shots.
Parker pointed to the Sparks loss against the Washington Mystics last week as a foreshadowing of things to come.
“At the time, you don’t know how moments define seasons, but I do feel like that Washington game kind of changed the trajectory of our season,” Parker said. “There’s energy you have to have, you have to carry forward. I think our energy kind of changed after that Washington game.”
Adding to the Sparks woes was the inability of Chelsea Gray to get anything going all game. Similar to last season, she was unable to find any rhythm against the Connecticut defense. She finished with only four points on 2-9 shooting and didn’t record a single assist.
Gray admitted after the game that she had injuries she was dealing with and that this particular game was going to stick with her for a while.
“I’m always going to try to do my best every time I step on the court. I’m always going to try to compete. I’m not excited leaving the bubble because we didn’t leave the way we wanted to leave,” Gray said. “We came up short and that’s going to hurt for a while.”
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.