Your Day in Women’s Basketball, August 13: Sparks keep rolling, but are they contenders?

The Los Angeles Sparks are building something good, but can they be great?

The Sparks did it! They won two games in a row! 

In its win over the New York Liberty, Los Angeles was stellar on both sides of the ball, shooting a franchise-best 11-for-17(!) from range and forcing 27 turnovers (somehow not a franchise record!) on the other end.

Brittney Sykes brought her typical defensive intensity without sacrificing any offensive output in the new starting role, a welcome surprise for LA. Sykes will be invaluable to a playoff run if she continues blossoming into a two-way player.

The Sparks need to string together a few more games in a row if they want to be considered serious finals contenders, but this short streak is an admirable start.

The Indiana Fever are still searching for that consistency, though. The highs have been really high for Indiana, sure. Take the 106 points they scored against the Mercury, or their resounding victory against the defending champion Mystics. They were impressive performances, but they don’t matter if you can’t build on these games. Something has yet to click for this squad.

Indiana is 0-3 after a win after falling to the Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday. It might be fatigue, it might be the lack of star power, but in reality, it’s probably the team’s subpar defense. The Fever have a special offense, but boast the league’s worst defensive rating and don’t carry many two-way talents on their roster. It showed in their loss to the Aces.

“By no means is this a one-player team,” head coach Marianne Stanley said of the Aces after the game. “Once they get going and kind of get in a rhythm, yeah, they are difficult to stop. They got a lot of talent, it’s not just one or two players.”

If you aren’t paying attention to the WCC’s Portland Pilots, you’re doing something wrong with your life. Quick recap: out in the West Coast Conference, Portland and its rookie coach Michael Meek were picked to finish last in the conference in 2020. Fast-forward to March, and Portland has its first 20-win season since 1997, and oh yeah, a conference championship.

Now let’s fast-forward to this season. Portland has kept basically all of its important players from last season, and added a number of intriguing pieces including a transfer from the University of Oregon, a set of twins, and the Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year (who is also Meek’s daughter), McKelle Meek.

“Last year’s team got along so well and cared so much about each other and each other’s successes and failures,” Meek told The Next. “They really, truly were a group that just did things for each other, and knowing we have a lot back, I feel, obviously, really good about that aspect. It’s one thing to win a league tournament, it’s a whole ‘nother thing to try to stay at the top.”

Please, please, please read this story from Christine M. Hopkins. You won’t regret it. I want to root for this team, and so do you.

The second episode of “She’s Got Next,” featuring nine-year-old Pepper Persley and the Connecticut Sun’s Jasmine Thomas, is out now!

The Next’s exclusive WNBA watch party is tonight! Subscribe and watch Sparks-Mystics with editor-in-chief Howard Megdal and others from The Next at 7 p.m. EST.

Wednesday’s Games

The Connecticut Sun are heating up, taking their third win in the past four games, and defeating the Dallas Wings 70-66.

The Chicago Sky got back on track against the Phoenix Mercury behind Allie Quigley’s 20 points in a resounding 89-71 win.

The Seattle Storm continued their reign of terror against the Atlanta Dream, 100-63, tying the WNBA record for made three-pointers. If the Storm can do this when Stewie only scores seven, I don’t know who is supposed to beat this team. Ever.

Play of the Day

The entire Storm team, who cannot miss.

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