Long Beach, CA – The story of the WNBA has been if you’re not playing at home, chances are wins will be very hard to come by. With the Los Angeles Sparks unable to pick up a win on the road in their first two playoff games against Connecticut, they were certainly thrilled to return back to the West Coast and show off their dominance where they have been 15-2 throughout the regular season.
There was just one problem. With the Emmy Awards across the street at the Microsoft Theatre, that bled into holding events inside Staples Center. But because of already a set schedule from the WNBA and ESPN, the Sparks were forced to find a new home for Sunday’s contest. They have played at the Pyramid before and took care of business, winning their last three playoff games there. This time around was a much different feeling, having the sense that it eventually became a road game based on the court itself and not the fans. The first quarter became the tell all as the Sparks shot just 25 percent from the field. They managed to take a small lead in the second, but the Sun became used to the flow of the game as they punched a ticket to the WNBA Finals, sweeping the Sparks in three games, winning the final contest 78-56.
“You have to give Connecticut a lot of credit,” Sparks head coach Derek Fisher said. “There were moments in each game where we competed, but they ended up being the much better team in each of the 40 minutes throughout the series.”
While the Sparks eventually picked things up on the offensive end, the Sun found ways to trade baskets and spurt small runs to keep the lead within double digits for most of the second half. There was no answer for both Jasmine Thomas and Courtney Williams, who combined had 46 points, with Thomas having the hot hand going 11-for-14 from the field.
Three point shooting was also the Sparks’ kryptonite. At Staples Center, all but three of their games had them finish 30 percent or above. They managed against the Sun in the contest shooting 2-for-21, a mere 10 percent.
Nneka Ogwumike was the only Sparks player in double figures with 17 points. Candace Parker only played 11 minutes on the court and tallied just 4 points.
“We were trying to do as much as we could to help the team,” Fisher said. “We were trying to find energy and spark. It became a searching battle throughout the entire series, so it all became trying to find fresh bodies. We tried not to single anyone out, but it was tough to try to adjust with the way they were playing.”
Many arguments can be made about the contest on Sunday night, which can include the fact that the Sun have been built to be one of the teams to beat in the WNBA. However, losing in the final game at home that isn’t their home has been the chirps over the last few days.
“I hope that people aren’t ignoring what’s best for the players and what’s best for the growth of the league,” Fisher told the LA Times on Saturday. “Whether that’s a team earning home court and not being able to play at home or a fan buying season tickets to see the Sparks at Staples Center and having to drive to Long Beach to see their team play a home playoff game. That’s unfair, not to just to the team but for the fans. After this season hopefully we won’t have to worry about this again.”
With the season over, this could be a prime example of much needed change. With the collective bargaining agreement ending this season, having a game end like this will be the forefront of discussion when it comes to taking care of the players first and foremost.
“When you are on the road, you are limited to your resources,” Fisher said. “A week long road trip ends up only being two games and very limited practice because your trainers aren’t there and your strength and conditioning coaches aren’t there. It is tough to play away from home. We hope to have some changes next season as we adjust to play away from home.”