Washington, DC — The Los Angeles Sparks aren’t trying to lose the WNBA Playoffs No. 2 seed. An ideal feat would be jumping the Minnesota Lynx for No. 1, however, they’re still two and a half games behind.
But the Sparks’ focus was on the Washington Mystics on Wednesday. If Los Angeles lost to them, those worries about other teams -- like the Connecticut Sun – who is creeping in view sitting at a close third place.
The Sun will have to wait.
The Sparks defeated the Mystics 95-62 in Capital One Arena to maintain the No. 2 seed, ensuring that the Sun would still have to fight for a double-round bye in the playoffs.
Playing against Washington, a team that averages the least number of turnovers per game in the league, Los Angeles played solid defense. That’s not surprising, especially considering the Sparks lead the league in steals per game (8.6).
Los Angeles’ stellar defense thwarted the Mystics’ offense early – and tonight they didn’t take their foot off the gas pedal. With the Sparks totaling 12 steals and the Mystics committing 20 turnovers, it was easy for them to maintain the lead.
“Our guards were making good decisions,” coach Brian Agler said. “We forced some turnovers with our defense. Those things, to me, helped us play the way we did."
After all, Los Angeles is the defending champions, and with only six games left in the regular season, they have the potential to repeat.
The team’s core – Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, Chelsea Gray and Odyssey Sims – are hard to stop. Parker facilitates and scores, Ogwumike routinely scores with ease, and Gray and Sims can drive through defenses at will.
“We just have so many different weapons and so much athleticism on the floor,” Parker said. “And so many people who are able to spread the floor.”
While the Sparks don’t have much depth, the four players bearing much of the offensive load, makes them perhaps one of the best cores in the league. Each player in the group scored in double figures Wednesday, with Parker leading the team with 21 points.
Though the Sparks’ top-tier players are difficult to guard, the team can still have a bad game. If the group doesn’t play well collectively, Los Angeles usually don’t, either.
That’s why the Sparks must continue to win as this season ends, for the Sun is on their heels. Los Angeles (20-8) will play the Chicago Sky (11-16) on Friday to continues its road trip.
The other six teams battle in the first and second rounds, which are single elimination. If the Sparks fall to the No. 3 seed, they would play the lowest-seeded first round winner in the second round; the playoffs are re-seeded after each round.
The defending champions, Los Angeles, surely does not want to find themselves in a win-or-go-home situation. That could work to their benefit, considering they have a solid core of players.
But it could also be a disadvantage, their lack of depth being a weakness. For now, the Sparks are still the defending champions. And that’s a title they could keep, just like the coveted No. 2 seed.