Three takeaways: Sparks top Fever in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 17: Tiffany Mitchell
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 17: Tiffany Mitchell /

Three takeaways from Monday night at Staples:

Candace and Nneka put a lid on the basket

A Tiffany Mitchell three put Indiana up by one with 8:02 to play in the second. The Sparks turned it over on the next trip due to a miscommunication between Candace Parker and Alana Beard. Los Angeles responded immediately to seize control of the quarter with an 11-0 run.

Parker blocked two shots in that span. Nneka Ogwumike and Riquana Williams each came away with a steal and the Fever turned it over once more. Watch Ogwumike sit down in a stance here after switching onto Erica Wheeler:

Ogwumike and Jantel Lavender found easy scores cutting to the basket and Sydney Wiese hit a three from the left corner off an on target extra pass from Chelsea Gray. Only a deep three off glass from Wheeler inside two seconds would trim the deficit to within 10.

If you missed Parker’s four blocks, we’ve got you covered:

Second start for Achonwa

Natalie Achonwa started her second game of the season against LA. In Indiana’s prior contest, she put up 7 points and 5 boards in 24 minutes. Monday’s line was fairly similar: 6 points and 8 boards in 21 minutes.

This is a shake up worth monitoring. Does this change help Indiana at all defensively? Can Achonwa take on a few more post ups per game?

Lavender knowing where to go

Jantel Lavender’s Monday line: Five points, 3 assists, 19 minutes played. We’ve heard about continuity quite a bit this year with the Lynx and Sparks. Lavender really personified that with her play on Monday.

Lavender is perhaps most known for her knock down shooting near the elbows. She’s been dipping her toe in the water with the three lately, too. Monday, she also knew when to dive hard to the rim and hold her seal in the middle of the lane:

She and Ogwumike also got on the same wavelength to connect for a nice backdoor score:

Lavender also had some great moments defensively. She anticipated a few drives by Wheeler and Mitchell wonderfully.

Example 1: Wheeler loves to snake a pick and roll. She’ll come off that screen then cross back over toward the middle when the big gives her too much of a cushion. Lavender anticipated that cross; Wheeler bumped right into her.

Example 2: Mitchell loves to turn the corner in the pick and roll. That’s why she gets to the free throw line as much as she does. Lavender stayed straight up and slid with her.

Quick glimpses like these from very specific parts of a game give viewers things to follow moving forward. Lavender’s defense and offensive awareness away from the ball really popped Monday night. Maybe this doesn’t tell you much. Lavender is the reigning 6th Woman of the Year for good reason.

From here, we can seek out other players making similar plays. Are there players capable of contributing to winning in similar ways currently flying under the radar? Of course, we can also follow Lavender’s minutes closely and watch for her to make a similar impact on games.