September 1, 2021 

Why Sparks are struggling to win on the road

Rebounding remains a major issue

With a playoff berth hanging in the balance, the Los Angeles Sparks knew that their six-game road trip was going to be very crucial.

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They began the trip on a high note, pulling out a close win against the New York Liberty on Aug. 22 but since then they have lost four consecutive games. The latest came on Tuesday night against the Indiana Fever.

After a pair of free throws from Nneka Ogwumike put the Sparks up 72-64 with a little over three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Fever went on a 10-0 run, capped off by a pair of free throws of their own, to seal the 74-72 win. 

While the game came down to the final possession and the Sparks had their chance at a potential game-tying or game-winning shot, head coach Derek Fisher stressed that the game wasn’t necessarily lost in those final seconds, but on failures to pay attention to little things throughout the game.

“The little things always make the difference in games,” Fisher said. “It’s easy to look at final plays and final possessions and dissect those because they’re more magnified, but every game you can go back to the first possession, the middle of the first quarter, and find a two or three minute stretch where you weren’t doing things the way you needed to do them and it catches up to you over time.”

One area in particular that plagued the Sparks all game long was rebounding. The Sparks started the season with poor showings on the glass, but had seemingly been able to clean that up a bit as the season went on. On Tuesday night, however, their rebounding woes were on full display.

The Fever outrebounded the Sparks, 39-20 with Teaira McCowan pulling down 19 by herself. She was a force on the glass all game long especially on the offensive end keeping possessions alive. She had her way in the paint against the Sparks who failed to put a body on her all night.

After the game, Ogwumike took responsibility for the team’s poor effort on the glass, citing her two collective rebounds going back to the last game against the Connecticut Sun, and emphasized how much damage McCowan was able to do.

“That’s not okay. As someone who prides themselves on going to the boards every time, it’s just making that commitment,” Ogwumike said. “You can always teach boxing out and finding spots, but rebounding is a mentality. I need to change that. Of course our team needs to change that but I’m not happy with that for me. We need to develop that mentality because that’s 19 less possessions.”

Off the bench, Lauren Cox had a somewhat solid game in her homecoming of sorts, having spent the beginning of this season in Indiana, but as a player who has been rather strong on the glass since joining the Sparks, she finished the game with only two rebounds. 

After the game, she acknowledged how much of a difference the Sparks lack of rebounding hurt them and she stressed the need for the Sparks to match other team’s levels of physicality on the glass.

“Rebounding isn’t something that takes a lot of talent,” Cox said. “They were a lot more physical than we were. We just have to learn from that. We know that the next game is going to be super physical too so we just have to learn from that.”

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.

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