Takeaways: Sparks pull away from Liberty with 31-11 run

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 04: Candace Parker
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 04: Candace Parker /

The Los Angeles Sparks seized complete control of Friday’s game against the New York Liberty with a 31-11 run in the first 12 minutes of the second half. Chelsea Gray pushed the LA lead to 20 with a driving score in transition just 2:11 into the fourth quarter.

The Sparks improved to 12-1 on the season at Staples Center with the win. The Liberty now sit at 12-12 overall in the six spot with 10 games to play.

Sparks guard Odyssey Sims put it well right after the game. “We were kind of all over the place,” Sims said. “[We] wanted to get three or four stops in a row.”

The Sparks were successful in that endeavor. Save for one technical free throw, the Sparks got nine straight stops at one point in the third quarter (part of a 12-1 run). More from Friday night:

Erasing an early deficit

Tina Charles picked up two fouls not even 50 seconds into the first quarter. LA raced out to a 10-2 lead; the Sparks led 21-13 minutes later. Both teams got up and down the floor in the first half, trading short runs.

Let’s pick things up at 21-13. Sugar Rodgers zipped around a screen to set herself up for a corner three:

Bria Hartley then scored five quick points to make it a one possession game just like that.

New York’s lineup adjustments have resulted in some fun basketball. Lindsay Allen pushes the pace with the second unit with Rodgers and Rebecca Allen spreading the floor. Kiah Stokes sparked a nice stretch early in the second quarter with a rim run, then deflected a pass leading to a score for Allen:

Candace Parker things

There are levels to the kind of damage Candace Parker does to teams from the top of the key on a nightly basis. She was 3-6 from deep Friday night. Parker also hit a tough step back two over Stokes in the second.

When Parker isn’t knocking down shots, she’s looking for her teammates. Maybe she’s finding Alana Beard on a backdoor cut because Beard’s defender has both eyes on the 2016 Finals MVP:

Maybe she’s in a pick and pop with fellow All-Star Chelsea Gray, then hitting the reigning league MVP, whose defender is also caught ball watching:

You already know she’s one of the best at diming up her teammates in semi-transition:

Parker is always reading the floor—this may be the best example to showcase her ability to do so. Parker dribbles toward the wing; we all think dribble handoff. Think again! Parker is already at the rim:

Parker runs the floor and finds creases, too, because the Sparks are stocked with high-IQ passing. Chelsea Gray is one of the best in transition, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this was your everyday no (half?)-look pass:

Nneka Ogwumike is often interchangeable with Parker. Ogwumike returned the favor to Parker with a terrific lob entry:

And maybe the best play of the night for LA was their only block. Care to guess who?

Tina Charles making plays for others

This header almost continues where we left off with the Liberty and this new rotation they’ve settled into.  

For most of the offense to run through Tina Charles, New York needs to maintain good spacing and get cutters to the open spots near the middle of the floor. We saw a few examples of Charles finding teammates out of a double earlier in the week.

Charles hit Kia Vaughn twice for easy scores under the basket:

There are also fun sets like these that set Charles up on an empty side to run a give and go from the elbow area:

The Liberty have their five game road trip behind them, which brought some good and some reminders of what needs improvement. Simply getting back home and in front of a friendly crowd is a good start. The schedule also looks favorable down the stretch—no more than one road game at a time and they close with three of four at Madison Square Garden.

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