Arlington, TX — Any former competitor, from any walk of life, will know this to be true: it all depends on who wants it more. It doesn’t matter what team has the “better” star player or who has the prestigious pedigree. What matters most, is who steps on the floor with the mindset to win, who steps up to the challenge, and who shows up to play.
It was obvious tonight that the Los Angeles Sparks were not prepared for the force that was the Dallas Wings.
“They just outplayed us,” Los Angeles Head Coach Brian Agler said. “I don’t think it’s about playing in Dallas, I think that Dallas is just a different type of team. We’ve come down here twice this year, and haven’t played as well as we’ve wanted, but I think they have something to do with that.”
Coach Agler further explained the style of play the Wings bring. “They’re very aggressive, they get to the free throw line a lot, it’s a lot of second shots and that’s a big part of how they have success. Tonight, we didn’t do a very good job dealing with that.”
As an outsider looking in, one can see the lofty position that the Sparks are in sitting in the second seed in the league standings. You can also see the position that the Wings are in, sitting at a weary seventh seed with two very capable teams biting at their heels.
In the fourth and final meeting between the two powerhouses this season, the Wings had that in mind tonight. The Sparks did not, and it showed on the stat sheet.
A big definer for the team was the lack of bench performance. Where the Wings reeled in 19 bench points, the Sparks’ bench only contributed six. Another performance gap happened on the boards, where Los Angeles was outrebounded by 16, 47-31. Sixteen of those 47 rebounds that Dallas had were offensive rebounds, and out of the 31 total rebounds Los Angeles had, only four of them came from the offensive end.
“I mean, obviously, it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. But they’re a good team, they’re fighting position, as are we. So, I think, obviously, them outrebounding us by 16 wasn’t in our favor,” Sparks forward Candace Parker said.
For the Wings, Dallas’ Glory Johnson showed up and put on a hefty performance to earn her 10th double-double of the season. She finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds and was a big reason why the Wings were able to control the game the way they did.
“I think our goal and our focus was to protect our home court. We kind of struggled before the last two, and we weren’t really playing as a team,” said Johnson. “Now we focus on the small things, share the ball a little bit more and focus heavy on defense, and that’s what we’ve been doing, focusing heavy on our defense and it has created a lot of offense.”
Another aspect that caused the Sparks some trouble was Candace Parker’s foul trouble. Early in the third quarter she was called for her fourth foul, which caused her to miss most of the third quarter and parts of the fourth.
Not having their “spark” player on the floor caused inconsistency in their offensive threats and uncertainty amongst the players. This gave Dallas the perfect opportunity to grasp the momentum and run with it.
And so they did. Dallas finished with 85 points on the board to Los Angeles’ 79, tying up the two teams as they both won two matchups of the four total they’ve had this season. In the case of the impending playoff season, the next few games can make or break either team’s positioning.
Dallas’ Fred Williams spoke on the mindset of his team going into the playoffs.
“We talk about one game at a time and controlling our destiny. It’s a goal of ours to continue to push hard and play hard in the course of the rest of the season. It’s not an easy league and each game is a challenge. Main thing is getting there and getting our ticket punched for the dance.”
Both teams have challenges ahead, with the Wings suiting up against the Phoenix Mercury on Thursday in Dallas while the Sparks continue their roadtrip and head to Minnesota to take on the number one team in the league, the Lynx, on Friday Aug. 11.