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Sparks’ most recent loss a cause for concern

The Los Angeles Sparks have lost five in a row. They need to rebound better, start better and optimize Liz Cambage.

Los Angeles Sparks v Las Vegas Aces
Las Vegas Aces guard Jackie Young (with ball)
Photo by David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images

The highly anticipated return of Liz Cambage to Las Vegas ended in a whimper, with the Sparks getting blown out 104-76. The matchup against A’ja Wilson was particularly rough to watch as the 2020 MVP dominated Cambage and the Sparks in every facet of the game. With five straight losses, the Sparks are quickly heading towards the bottom of the league. Things looked promising when Los Angeles started 2-0; what’s happened?

No rebounds, no rings

Pat Riley’s famous quote on rebounding is as true today as it was in the 80s. If you don’t win the rebounding battle, you don’t win. The Sparks have been getting killed on the boards. They are the second-worst rebounding team in the league, averaging 31.9 rebounds per game. In their five losses, the Sparks have been outrebounded a whopping 198-146. This has to change if they want to start winning games.

How you start is how you finish

Can the Sparks start a game off well? Over the first six games they played, five started with the Sparks trailing in the first quarter. This team has gotten off to awful starts, with Monday’s loss against the Aces being the worst culprit. They trailed by 20 after the opening frame and allowed the Aces to score 39 points, a new Las Vegas record for points in a quarter. With three of the Sparks losses being decided by three or fewer points, one can’t help but wonder if some of those losses could’ve been victories had the Sparks just started off better.

Optimizing Liz

Overall, Cambage has been a good player for the Sparks. She’s averaging 5.7 rebounds and 15.3 points on 50 percent shooting. However, there have been quite a few games where the Sparks have been unable to get the ball to her. Cambage has attempted less than 10 field goal attempts in three of the five losses. The Sparks have to find a way to get the ball to her in the paint early and often. Too many possessions start with her setting a pick and staying at the top of the key and never touching the ball again or hanging around near the perimeter and never getting a look inside the paint. Yes, she can stretch the floor, but she does her best work near the rim. Monday was a perfect example. She went 4-of-9 and all her makes were near the basket.

Looking ahead

The good thing about the WNBA season is that it’s fast-paced. Redemption is often just a day away and the Sparks have a chance to end this losing streak on Wednesday when they play just their second home game of the season. The season is still young, but it will get old soon enough and wins need to start happening.