The Los Angeles Sparks dropped their season opener against the Las Vegas Aces in Nevada, but surged back in their season home opener with a 77-70 win over Chiney Ogwumike’s former team, the Connecticut Sun.
No Candace Parker, no Alana Beard — no problem.
With sister Nneka, the Ogwumikes combined for 39 points and 22 rebounds against a sizzling performance from the Sun’s Jonquel Jones who grabbed 22 boards and scored 16 points all on her own.
Kicking off a four-game road trip that won’t return the Sparks to L.A.’s Staples Center until June 15, coach Derek Fisher hopes to improve to 2-1 on the season against the Liberty in a brunch-time tilt. In Friday’s win over the Sun, Chelsea Gray also contributed double-digit scoring with 16 points and Nneka Ogwumike pulled down a team-high 15 rebounds. A win over a struggling Liberty team shouldn’t be too much trouble.
New York enters this matchup not having won a game since its preseason opener against the China National Team on May 9. Since then, the team has been on an 0-5 skid — three of those preseason games, two regular-season games and three of them blowouts but 10 or more points.
The Liberty finished 11th in the standings in 2018 and currently sit dead-last, at 12th. With veteran center and Olympic gold medalist Tina Charles, rookie Asia Durr, second-year star Kia Nurse and a force like Bria Hartley, this team should be winning games or at least coming close to winning them — as in, keeping things close and avoiding blowouts.
A five-game losing streak can’t be good for moral and if it continues the players risk slipping into demoralization. The reason to watch this one is to see if Liberty coach Katie Smith has come up with something new in terms of lineups and rotations and if the team is showing signs of an identity. If not, should Liberty fans expect a change in the coaching ranks?
Los Angeles Sparks (1-1) at New York Liberty (0-2)
When: Tuesday, June 4, at 11:00 a.m. ET
Where: Westchester County Center, NY | TICKETS
How to watch: WNBA League Pass (national); YES TV and Spectrum SportsNet (local markets).
Keys to the matchup: To the Sparks’ players’ bodies, this game is tipping off at 8:00 a.m. Pacific. Travel, a three-hour time difference plus an early start time could cause the Sparks to come out sluggish, which could allow the Liberty to make a contest of it. In the Liberty’s last outing, five players scored in double figures. If one of those players can double her score, the Liberty just might eke out a win. But this game is L.A.’s to lose.