How has Los Angeles righted the ship? We take a look
The Los Angeles Sparks have seemingly turned the corner as of late. It wasn’t too long ago that they were mired in a four-game slump. Their offense was stagnant, they couldn’t stop anyone from scoring, and Candace Parker was clearly rusty after missing the first seven games of the season.
But in back-to-back wins over the Las Vegas Aces and Chicago Sky, they’ve looked worlds better. They look much more in sync on the offensive end, and defensively, they’ve clamped down, especially on the perimeter, and posted an overall net rating of 22.7.
Perhaps the biggest factor in the Sparks recent win streak is the reemergence of Parker. While clearly battling rust when she initially returned, she’s seemingly found her rhythm. She was combined 5-for-28 from the field in her first three games.
Since then, she’s shot a combined 11-for-22 from the field, shot 50 percent from the three-point line, and has generally been aggressive on the offensive end. When superstars play like superstars, the dynamic of the game really changes.
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Another key factor in the Sparks improved play has been the addition of Riquna Williams to the starting lineup. The Sparks have tried out a few different rotations since the season began, but the move to put Williams in with the starters seems to have paid off.
The Sparks were often plagued by slow starts offensively during their losing streak. Williams is instant offense and she’s given the team some much-needed firepower to begin the game. In the win over the Sky, she had nine points in the first seven minutes alone.
“I think that Riquna’s addition, it takes some pressure off of Chelsea [Gray], it takes some pressure off of Candace [Parker] on the offensive end for sure because of how dynamic she is,” Sparks head coach Derek Fisher told reporters on Sunday. “I also think that defensively, which she doesn’t necessarily get a lot of credit for, she has the ability to be an irritant and someone that other guards don’t feel comfortable playing against.”
Williams’ 18 points against the Aces and 19 points against the Sky were her second and third highest point totals this season. She had a season-high 25 against the Minnesota Lynx on Jun 8.
One other player who has also taken advantage of an increased role lately has been rookie Kalani Brown. Against the Aces, she had her best offensive game of the season with 12 points while not backing down at all against Liz Cambage.
Against the Sky, she turned it up a notch defensively. She patrolled the paint and finished with a season-high three blocked shots while altering many others.
“She’s been important for us from day one. Being a player is hard. If you can imagine Kalani’s last two years, playing on a team that won an NCAA title and being a star, being the focal point of a team, to showing up in LA and you’re not the focal point, and she had the calf injury she was dealing with to start training camp,” Fisher said. “It’s taken her a little time to get herself together as a professional player, and you’re starting to see the things that we knew she was capable of. But she’s now learning how to generate the energy, the intensity, the physicality that she’s capable of playing with on a daily basis.”
The Sparks will now have a week off until their next game on Sunday, July 7 at home against the Washington Mystics.
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