The Sparks lost to the Phoenix Mercury 81-74 on Sunday, ending their two-game winning streak to start off the month of June. Nneka Ogwumike led the Sparks in points, scoring 19 on 8-of-11 shooting, and she also led the team in rebounding with seven boards on the night.
The Sparks may have lost the game, but it wasn't a total loss. Los Angeles was able to win the battle of the boards, a feat they have struggled to do all season-long, outrebounding Phoenix, 28-24. The Sparks also shot better from the field, shooting 49.2 percent compared to the Mercury's 45.8. Jordin Canada made her return to the court after missing back-to-back games due to a hamstring issue. Having the starting point guard back in the fold can only improve the team's depth and offensive production in the long term. The Sparks bench was also a positive, having Brittney Sykes, Chennedy Carter, and Chiney Ogwumike combine for 33 points.
Still, you can only talk about the glass being half full for so long before acknowledging it's half empty. The Sparks lost because they did not have an answer for Diana Taurasi or Skylar Diggins-Smith. Both players had dominant games scoring and whenever they wanted to. Thanks to this dynamic duo, Phoenix was in control and led most of the game. You could be certain Diggins-Smith would respond with a bucket whenever the Sparks had a lead or brought it within a one-possession game.
Another factor in the loss was the lack of production from Liz Cambage. She only played 13 minutes, scoring eight points. She was out the majority of the fourth, which Coach Derek Fisher acknowledges might not have been the right move.
"When we look back at it maybe it was a mistake on my part to not have her out there in the fourth. We just felt like we were struggling to contain some of the things that they were doing offensively just in terms of the activity level."
This is not what you want to hear if you expect Cambage to be a factor in the Sparks' return to glory. She's the big offseason acquisition, and you don't want to hear that she got played off the floor, and you also don't want to see such low numbers in terms of points and minutes played. The Sparks have struggled at times getting Liz the ball in the post and getting her going throughout the game, and Sunday was no different. Maximizing Cambage's skillset will be a key factor in maximizing this team's potential. Fisher has to figure that out.
Luckily, the Sparks have a much kinder June schedule and do not play again until Saturday when they face off against the Las Vegas Aces at home. Hopefully, the time off gives players like Canada some much-needed rest and Fisher time to figure out how to contain the No. 1 team in the league.