Your Day in Women’s Basketball, August 7: Chelsea Gray and Candace Parker shine for Sparks

Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray are elevating the Sparks to title contention

Candace Parker is back in her bag. After a pretty tepid start to the season, she and Chelsea Gray have given the Sparks… well, a spark.

The duo poured in 34 points in Los Angeles’s 86-75 over the Indiana Fever on Wednesday, cementing the Spark’s status in the league’s second-class alongside the likes of the Sky, Mercury, and Aces. (For the sake of this exercise, the Storm are in a class of their own). If Nneka Ogwumike can stay healthy, the Sparks have the chance to make a deep postseason run.

As for the Fever, the team the Sparks defeated on Wednesday, the goal moving forward has to be consistency. Because eight out of 12 teams qualify for the WNBA playoffs, and the league’s bottom tier seems to be set at five teams, the Fever have a narrow window to sneak into the postseason.

If Indiana wants to reach the next level, it has to play every quarter like its the fourth. Despite digging themselves a 21-point hole entering the final frame, the Fever cut the Sparks lead down to seven thanks to the outstanding scoring of Kelsey Mitchell.

No. 3 pick Lauren Cox finally joined the Fever on Wednesday and while she only scored one point, expect her to gradually fuse into the offense. A breakout rookie campaign from Cox could elevate Indiana beyond the basement tier.

Speaking of the basement, the Connecticut Sun fell to 0-5 on Tuesday with a loss to the Storm, though they did bounce back on Thursday against the Wings for their first win of the season.

The Sun had struggled to generate offense outside of DeWanna Bonner and Alyssa Thomas last week, and even that pair has struggled to play off of each other at times. Bonner and Thomas are responsible for 44 percent of the team’s points this season, the second-highest percentage in the league behind the New York Liberty. It’s hard to win like that, and it’s not great company to be in.

Center Brionna Jones has started to pick up some of the offensive slack, but this is clearly a rebuilding year for Connecticut without Jonquel Jones. The Sun have had problems with turnovers and transition defense, or what head coach Curt Miller calls a “double whammy.”

The Minnesota Lynx have incorporated a number of different rotations thus far, and it’s worked, to the tune of a 4-1 start.

Bad news for opposing teams: they’ll only going to get harder to pin down with the return of Odyssey Sims next week.

Sims had an All-WNBA campaign in 2019, which is, you know, a pretty good thing to get back if you’re Minnesota. Sims should be a seamless fit into the backcourt, and her two-way play and precision playmaking ability are the types of skills that any team could use.

Don’t blame Sims if she does a double-take playing alongside (superstar?) Bridget Carleton on the court. 

Coming into Wednesday’s game, Carleton had 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists in her entire career. With Sylvia Fowles out, Carleton seized the starting spot. And once the game had wrapped up, Carleton had matched those last two figures and nearly doubled her point production to the tune of 25 points.

“It makes me so happy,” teammate Lexie Brown said. “I’ve been in that position before. She had a really, really good training camp. I knew that she was going to help us so much this season. She has so many weapons offensively. She can rebound, she can handle the ball, make passes, knock down shots. Her number was called today, and she was ready.”

Thursday’s Games

The Seattle Storm and Atlanta Dream played perhaps the most exciting game of the season, as Chennedy Carter’s monstrous 35-point masterclass wasn’t enough to take down the dominant Storm in a 93-92 loss.

The Connecticut Sun FINALLY won(!) against the Dallas Wings 91-68 thanks to a starting unit that spread the ball around and (finally) didn’t rely on DeWanna Bonner.

The streaking Phoenix Mercury defeated the Chicago Sky as Diana Taurasi activated GOAT-mode in a 96-86 victory.

Play of the Day

It’s impossible to pick just one Chennedy Carter highlight, so here are all of them.

And you know what? I would be remiss not to have Jordin Canada’s pass heard ’round the world on here. This is the filthiest pass I have seen all season, and it isn’t even close.

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