The Sparks are right where they want to be, well ... sort of. Given the injuries, health and safety protocols, and the brutal road schedule to start the season, being 12-14 and sixth in the standings ain't bad. They just completed a home stand with a 4-3 record despite a few games where only eight players were available.
"You want to be undefeated at home, you know," interim head coach Fred Williams said. "But when you have some injuries, you're going through things, this is where you want to fix it; being at home, our goal was to make sure that we were over .500 being at home in this stretch, and that was one of our goals, and that happened."
Now the Sparks are back on the road. They have back-to-back road games coming up against the Las Vegas Aces on Saturday and the Phoenix Mercury on Thursday, and six of the next seven games are on the road, with the lone home game coming up against the Lynx on the last day of July. This is not only a three-week span of road games; it will be the final road games of the season as the Sparks end the regular season at home. It is not an exaggeration to say this slew of games could make or break the Sparks' season.
One of the reasons these road games are so crucial is because the standings are as tight as ever. The difference between being the sixth seed and being ninth and out of the playoffs is only one game. From here on out, every game will matter, and everything will have playoff implications for the Sparks, Dream, Mercury, and Wings.
"We have to play playoff basketball, playoff defense," Brittney Sykes said, "and make sure we are locked in all four quarters."
Not only does every game matter, but tiebreakers are likely to factor in as well. The WNBA adjusted its rules prior to the start of the season, and now head-to-head record will be the first tiebreaker. The ideal scenario for the Sparks is to win both games against the Liberty and beat the Dream and Mercury so that they can own the tiebreaker against all three teams. How likely is it that the tiebreaker will factor in? Very. Last season three teams were tied for the eighth and final playoff spot, and the Sparks lost out on the playoffs due to the tiebreaker. You want to win the head-to-head matchups so you can control your own destiny, and the Sparks can do just that in the coming weeks.
The good news for the Sparks is that they are currently sixth, and if they keep winning, they can distance themselves from the pack. The question is can they get healthy? The Sparks just got Chennedy Carter and Liz Cambage back, so hopefully, they can keep getting healthier and have no more setbacks this season. Another injury or two would decimate the roster depth and give the Sparks no room to recover.
The following is the @LASparks Injury Report for tomorrow’s matchup at Las Vegas:— LA Sparks PR (@LASparksPR) July 22, 2022
Kristi Toliver - NWT (calf)
Rae Burrell -NWT (knee)
You want to play games that matter for as long as possible, and as we enter the season's final quarter, the Sparks are still doing that. They have just one more road stretch to go, and it will profoundly impact how this regular season ends. If they win their key matchups against the Mercury, Dream, and Liberty, they will be in prime playoff position and returning to the postseason. If they drop too many games they'll be on the outside looking in and hoping for some lucky breaks. The road trip begins against the Aces, in Las Vegas, on Saturday night.