They say the game of basketball is a game of runs; perhaps the season is as well. Right now, the L.A. Sparks (5-7) are in a bad stretch where injuries are accumulating and losses are too. With the team losing three straight and four of their last five, what’s going wrong in Los Angeles? Is the honeymoon between Curt Miller and the Sparks over?
This past week the Sparks played against the Minnesota Lynx twice and the Connecticut Sun once, all home games and all losses. There are many reasons/excuses for the poor performance, but let’s start with what’s happening on the court.
In each game, the Sparks fell short in the same ways: being outscored in the paint, too many turnovers and losing control of the game in the fourth.
Los Angeles Sparks head coach Curt Miller on Lexie Brown’s impact. Brown is the Sparks third-leading scorer at 13.3 points per game and is shooting 42% from 3 but has missed the last 3 games with a non-COVID illness. #WNBATwitter #WNBA pic.twitter.com/HRfCh1XLWN— John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) June 21, 2023
Being unable to score as many points in the paint as they’d like is vexing, but it seems that the paint points are down because 3-point shooting is suffering with Lexie Brown’s absence. She’s missed the last three games and the team shot 21-of-71 from downtown during this stint.
With the Sparks’ best shooter gone, teams are packing the paint and daring L.A. to shoot. And with every miss from deep, the paint gets increasingly congested and it becomes a vicious cycle with teams going all in on this strategy to rack up wins. With Brown’s Friday night game status still in question, L.A. will need players like Karlie Samuelson to step up and hit some big shots if Brown is out.
Turnovers are so detrimental to success for two reasons: they end your possession and allow the other team to run if it’s a live ball turnover. Over the past week, the Sparks have committed a league-high 48 turnovers. That won’t win you many games, even at home, and, so far, the result has been 0-3 for the Sparks during this five-game home stand.
L.A. had a chance to win in every loss this week but fell apart in the fourth.
Against the Lynx last Friday, the Sparks were outscored 19-15 in the fourth, losing 77-72. The quarter started with Minnesota on a 5-0 run and the Lynx never looked back, as Napheesa Collier racked up a game-high 25 points.
In the following game against Connecticut, L.A. led for most of the affair, but the Sun applied pressure in the fourth and overwhelmed the Sparks, winning the final frame 20-11 and the game 83-74. Los Angeles really struggled offensively late, going scoreless in the final 3:45 of the game.
The rematch on Tuesday versus Minnesota was more of the same. This time, Collier had 26 points and with the game tied after three quarters, Minnesota took care of business to win 67-61, beating the Sparks for the third time in nine days.
These were all winnable games and what separates teams in this league is being able to win 50/50 games. The Sparks are not a team that can get those wins right now.
Context matters and missing two starters will negatively impact any team. Still, excuses are excuses and the reality is that injuries are a part of the game, and entering the fourth of every game, winning was a realistic possibility and they fell short each time.
Los Angeles will finish this five-game home stand this weekend with two games against the Dallas Wings. Let’s see if they can get the two-game sweep and reach the .500 mark come Sunday.