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Wings Update: Dallas squanders big lead, drops another game to Los Angeles

The Dallas Wings outplayed the Los Angeles Sparks for the vast majority of their meeting on Friday, but ultimately fell as the Sparks overcame a significant first-half deficit.

Dallas Wings v Los Angeles Sparks
Arike Ogunbowale
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

For the second time in the last 10 days, the Dallas Wings (6-7) fell to the Los Angeles Sparks (6-7) — though unlike their meeting on June 14, when Dallas scored just 61 points and trailed for the majority of the game, last night’s rematch was a game the Wings should have won.

The Wings began the game as hot as the Sparks did cold, getting out to a 27-13 first-quarter lead and neutralizing the Los Angeles offense with notable amounts of ball pressure. The Sparks persevered, however, slowly chipping away at the Wings lead as Dallas’ own offense was unable to sustain its momentum; near the end of the third quarter, Los Angeles tied the game, setting the stage for a back-and-forth fourth quarter that ended in perhaps the most deflating fashion of any Wings game thus far in 2023.

Though neither team had its best offensive outing — Dallas and Los Angeles combined to shoot 7-of-42 on 3-pointers, which, according to Across the Timeline, was the seventh-worst combined long-range shooting percentage (16.7 percent) in a WNBA game with at least 40 3-pointers attempted — the Wings had been able to muster just enough to maintain one- and two-possession leads for much of the fourth quarter. The Sparks’ backcourt of Jordin Canada and Destanni Henderson, however, made several crucial plays in the game’s waning moments, forcing Wings guards Arike Ogunbowale and Crystal Dangerfield into difficult shots while making key baskets (and free throws) of their own. The Wings’ final points came with 1:49 remaining in the game, and Canada closed things out with two go-ahead free throws.

Though the game’s twists and turns were certainly entertaining, from the Wings’ perspective, the defeat was a prime example of the importance of sharp late-game offense, as well as a humbling reality check on how much work the Wings still have to do to be considered a WNBA contender. Off nights, like when Dallas came up plenty short against the Sparks in their first meeting, happen for every team, but to lead by double-digits for much of a game against a shorthanded team and then surrender that lead is another matter entirely; credit, of course, should be given to the Sparks, who currently field three players on emergency hardship contracts (Henderson, Karlie Samuelson and Rae Burrell) and fought back despite the odds, but in retrospect, it’s hard to not look back at the game as anything other than the Wings snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

McCowan returns to Wings lineup with mixed results

Center Teaira McCowan is back with the Wings after playing a brief stint in the 2023 FIBA Women’s EuroBasket competition. McCowan competed for the Turkish National Team, which went 1-2 in the competition’s group phase and did not advance to the playoff phase.

Atlanta Dream v Dallas Wings Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

In two games since returning to the Wings lineup, McCowan’s impact has been evident, though perhaps not in the way the team would like. Dallas has been better with McCowan on the floor than on the bench — it’s a small sample size, but her on/off efficiency differential in those two games is 6.9 — and she’s hauled in 19 rebounds (seven offensive) in 52 total minutes. McCowan’s usual high-efficiency offense has been missing, however, as she’s shot just 5-of-16 (31.6 percent) from the field and 5-of-11 (45.5 percent) from the free throw line.

For a team that has struggled to score efficiently, McCowan’s own offensive struggles are certainly not helping the Wings, but given how beneficial her offensive rebounding is for Dallas, there’s no reason to think that she won’t turn things around soon. There’s also a bit of a ramp-up period to be expected, as McCowan missed most of the Wings’ games prior to EuroBasket with an ankle injury.

What’s next for the Wings

The Wings will get one more crack at the Sparks on Sunday in a nationally-televised afternoon matchup (3 p.m. ET; ABC). They’ll then continue their road trip on Tuesday, playing Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury (2-9), which will be a later start (10 p.m. ET; CBS Sports Network). The Wings are 2-0 against the Mercury so far this season, having won 84-79 back on June 7 and 90-77 on June 9.