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Sparks beat defending champs in season opener

Thanks to Jordin Canada’s 21 points, the LA Sparks start off the 2022 campaign with a victory against the defending champion Chicago Sky.

Los Angeles Sparks v Chicago Sky
Rae Burrell (left) and Lexie Brown
Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

After making massive roster cuts on Thursday, with the players only finding out who was starting the season opener Friday morning, the Sparks would’ve been forgiven if they came out looking flat and uncomfortable against the Chicago Sky. Instead, Los Angeles went toe to toe and came out victorious against the defending champions, 98-91 in overtime, winning the first game of the Liz Angeles era.

Cambage’s Debut

The Sparks played so well that it’s easy to forget that Liz Cambage made her official debut as a Spark on Friday. Her presence was felt immediately. She had 12 points, and four rebounds, in her 24 minutes of play. She was in every action when the Sparks needed buckets late in this game — setting screens up top or getting the ball in the block. No, it wasn’t a perfect debut. She had five turnovers, including what could have been a costly one late in the game against Candace Parker. Still, all in all, Cambage was an effective player, and her presence gave the team an offensive weapon and rebounding in the post they were desperately missing a year ago.

The New Editions

With only three players from last year’s team suiting up and playing the season opener, this game was all about the new editions. Jordin Canada was spectacular, leading the team in points (21) and assists (eight) and keeping turnovers to a minimum (three). The point guard had the ball on a string and controlled the offense like she’d been doing it for years. She talked about why she was so effective in the postgame press conference:

“Coming off of ball screens, they were trying to hard hedge, and they were kind of cheating it, so I was able to split every time, and also on the backside action, the nail wasn’t there, so I was able to attack the basket and just reading what the defense was giving me, whether I needed to drive, or kick it out to shooters, just trying to attack and get to the paint and find my teammates.”

Canada might’ve been the conductor, but there were some other great performances from her Sparks teammates. Lexie Brown had her revenge game against her former team. The Athletes Unlimited alum played 32 minutes, scoring 12 points and getting all her points from beyond the arc, going 4-of-5 from three. Chennedy Carter was impressive off the bench as well, adding 12 points of her own, but doing it the old school way with just two-point buckets; in fact, she didn’t even attempt a three in her 12 minutes of play. Not all performances were great; rookie Amy Atwell got the start, but not much else as she played only eight minutes and had zero points. Now, this being her first game, maybe this was her “welcome to the WNBA moment,” playing against the defending champs on the road.

Looking Ahead

The Sparks got a great win, but the time to celebrate that win is over and done with. The WNBA season moves at a fast and intense pace. The team’s next three games will be on the road with their next game being against the Indiana Fever, a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2015. The Sparks need to take advantage of any winnable games on their schedule and that certainly seems like one.

It’s easy to draw grandiose conclusions after one game, and it’s our job to not do that. However, it’s hard not to be optimistic about the talent on this roster. They just went up against the champs on the road and got the better of them in an overtime game. Time will tell if this is an indicator of what 2022 has in store for the Sparks or if this is just a flash in the pan. For now, Derek Fisher and company have to be pleased with game one of 36.