NEW YORK, NY — The City of Angels had the numbers. They owned the last five games in a series with New York. Sunday afternoon, though, what happened in the past didn’t matter.
“The game plan was to keep them on the perimeter,” said New York Liberty Head Coach Bill Laimbeer. “Once we figured that out, we stuck to it, and they didn’t make the shots anymore, then we rammed the ball down their throats.”
Talk about a tough ball to swallow.
Too many times this season, the Los Angeles Sparks’ stamina runs out by the second half, or worse, by the first quarter. On Sunday, Los Angeles was off to a great start and dominated New York with offensive grace. Chelsea Gray nailed a solid shot from the arc to lead the first period by 11. Four Sparks’ followed with double digits from there. So far, the endurance for the Sparks did not look like it was in jeopardy.
Arguably the league’s best player, Candace Parker, was working her magic in the opening frame. She already was in double digits, however, her momentum and flow took a bad turn in the second frame. Parker wasn’t the only one who went from knocking down her shots to not being able to buy a bucket -- the entire team for Los Angeles went into a shooting slump.
An MVP like Parker can net 10 points in the first quarter, then add only four more the entire game? For a second ranked team defending their crown, it just doesn’t fit.
“I think, just in general in the second half, I didn’t have a lot of rhythm,” said Parker.
They just aren’t consistent -- and they know it. As the year has progressed, the Sparks have picked up a bad habit of getting leads, yet letting them be erased -- just like Sunday against New York.
“We’re a bit inconsistent – there are good games and there are games that we win but we still didn’t play so well, and there are games that we lose. So we’re trying to maintain that consistency,” said Nneka Ogwumike.
The Sparks snuck within five points a few times in the third but never threatened New York once they went on their 20-0 point run in the second.
The biggest run in the third for Los Angeles? Six points.
“They made a big start but we got it back and tied it at half time,” explained Laimbeer. “Then they start taking the ball to the basket because we extended our defense and they started making lay-ups.”
There were windows of opportunities where it looked as if the Sparks were going to recapture its lead, but the Liberty made sure it didn’t happen on their watch.
The Los Angeles Sparks blew an easy win because their inconsistent errors and stamina won’t allow them to push past went teams start to fight back and prove themselves.
“Beating L.A., the defending champions, is a good step for us,” explained New York’s Shavonte Zellous. “Going out there, it was embarrassing how, in the third quarter, they just turned their defense up a little bit.”
“They kind of had us on our heels but we knew if we took care of the ball, rebounded, and played together and had our defense together we could take it to L.A. and ultimately, that’s what we did to get the win,” concluded Zellous.
If they blow early leads as the postseason nears, that crown might return to its place as a distant memory.