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Sparks get burned by Sun

Losing 77-60 in a game that wasn’t even that close, the Los Angeles Sparks ended their four-game road trip 2-2.

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WNBA: MAY 14 Los Angeles Sparks at Connecticut Sun
DiJonai Carrington (with ball)
Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was over before it even began. The Connecticut Sun, a team that only lost six games last season, has a coach of the year, an MVP, and a returning star in Alyssa Thomas, started the game on a 12-2 run, and then they started working on the Sparks. In a game the Sparks would love to forget, the Sun dominated in every statistical category, with the rebounding difference of 45-21 being the most striking. The loss puts the Sparks at 2-2, ending their road trip as they head home for the first time this season to play the home opener against the Minnesota Lynx.

Why they lost

The Sparks have gotten off to slow starts in every game. In the first quarter, the Sparks have been outscored 86-70 on the season, with Sunday being the worst offense, losing the first 26-14. It wasn’t just losing the quarter but how they lost the quarter. The offense was non-existent, with the Sparks' first field goal coming midway through the first at the 5:19 mark.

The Sparks also had no answer for the combination of A. Thomas and Jonquel Jones, with both players producing double-doubles and combining for more rebounds together than the entire Sparks team. When a put-back was needed, a rebound would extend a drive or the Sparks flirted with making it a game, there were Thomas and Jones to get the job done. Combine that with shooting 35 percent from the field, 20 turnovers, and three made threes on 12 attempts, and you soon realize a path to victory didn’t exist on Sunday for LA.

Half games won, or lost?

Do you believe glasses are half-full or half-empty? Depending on how you answer that question might reveal how you feel about this Sparks team so far. The good is this team has shown signs of brilliance. A 22-point, 11-rebound Liz Cambage game against the Fever, a 98-91 victory against the defending champ Chicago Sky, and a rally that fell just short in Atlanta. If you want to feel good about this team, there are plenty of reasons. Another reason came from Chiney Ogumike during the postgame presser, where she talked about the team’s chemistry.

“I’ve learned that we like each other, which is always a plus,” she said. “Cause, you know it’s a job, but when you like each other, it’s that much better.”

On the contrary, if you want to see the negative of this team, you can. 3-point shooting is a concern, with Los Angeles shooting a meager 28.3 percent from beyond the arc. Then there’s the previous game. Yes, 2-2 on a road trip is fine, maybe even acceptable, but it’s hard to contextualize good wins and good losses early in the season. Will that Fever win be impressive in three months? It’s hard to say. What one can say with general confidence is the Connecticut Sun are good. They kept their core and were a phenomenal team last year. Playing them this early is a sort of litmus test for how good your team is. On Sunday, the Sparks did not pass that test. Then again, on opening night, they did pass, beating the 2022 champs on the road in overtime. Again, it’s half full or half empty, depending on how you look at it.

Homecoming

After four games on the road, the Sparks are thrilled to have their home opener coming up on Tuesday against the Lynx.

“It’s exciting. Our home opener, we’re looking to bring energy and effort all the time,” Jasmine Walker said postgame. “That’s what we’re looking to do; it’s an exciting moment.”

C. Ogumike added on to that with what it means to play in the renamed Crypto.com Arena.

“We all know what it feels like to play in that arena, but also I feel like there’s a new energy not only when you have a home opener, but also there’s a new energy on this team,” she said. “To be back home to actually have the crowd on our side, our fans, our people, our family, let’s just say it's going to be welcomed.”

Welcomed indeed. The Sparks have one of the best crowds in the WNBA, and I’m certain Tuesday will have a rambunctious crowd and a packed stadium eager to finally see their team play at home. The game starts at 10:30 p.m. ET and is not only the home opener but a Commissioner’s Cup game.