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Plum pushes Aces past Sparks

LOS ANGELES–Western Conference Player of the Week, Nneka Ogwumike, led the Los Angeles

Sparks with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Lexie Brown added 17 points on five-for-eight three-point shooting, Liz Cambage had 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Brittney Sykes chimed in 10

Cambage attacking the rim. Photo by fi360 News

points, seven rebounds, and seven assists as the Sparks lost to the Las Vegas Aces 79-73. The loss drops Los Angeles to 7-11 on the year and into tenth place in the standings.


Unlike their previous meetings against the Aces, Los Angeles refused to have a slow start. As a result, the Sparks jumped to an early eight-point and placed the pressure on the league-leading Aces.


“The Aces have had, the last few games, very good first quarters against us. So, that was our main focus–coming out strong and sticking with them the whole game,” said Cambage.


As the game wore on, the tandem of MVP front-runner A’ja Wilson, and Kelsey Plum, proved too much for Los Angeles. Wilson, averaging 18.7 points and 9.9 rebounds on the year, had her usual stat line of 25 points and 11 rebounds against the Sparks. But it was Plum who put Los Angeles defenders in a blender throughout the night.


“I had to text someone the other day,” Cambage expressed through a smile, “that Bill Laimbeer turned Kelsey Plum into a monster keeping her on the bench like that.”

Plum had a game-high 29 points and 5 assists.

Los Angeles has gone 2-5 over June, yet the Sparks remain steadfast that their tides and fortunes are changing for the better.

This year, Las Vegas beat the Sparks by an average of 22.5 points. But with former Spark Chelsea Gray out, Los Angeles’s inability to generate offense squandered an opportunity to steal a game against the WNBA’s best in the game’s waning moments.


“I’m very pleased with how we collectively have come together as a unit,” head coach Fred Williams said. “Once it clicks in for you, it’s on all cylinders. Right now, we still have about two or three spark plugs to put in to make things happen on the floor for us; all the way around–on the offensive end and on the defensive end.”

Storm falter late, losing 85-77 to Sparks

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Seattle, WA – In a tough game, against a team they should beat, the Seattle Storm faltered late after a hot start. Seattle came out in the first quarter hitting threes, pushing the pace, and playing solid defense. Those three things were a staple of Storm basketball for a long time. Seattle would hit a snag, and never really regained their footing. Big second and fourth quarters, as well as a big advantage in rebounding, dug Seattle a deep hole that they never got out of.

As mentioned previously, the Storm came out firing in the first quarter. Two quick buckets from Ezi Magbegor on Liz Cambage started the game off. Breanna Stewart nailed several three pointers, and the Storm were pushing the pace. It seemed like Seattle was going to steam roll to a victory over a Los Angeles team that was all over the place, on the court and off of it. A big second quarter quickly turned things around for the Sparks, and all of the sudden Seattle was in a hole. Breanna Stewart would reflect on the game.

Photo by fi360 News

“I think the third was back and forth, going into the fourth they were able to execute off of our miscues… basically, they were scoring and we weren’t. I think that sometimes we got a couple open looks and we couldn’t knock it in. Scoring nine points in the fourth quarter is unacceptable,” Stewart said.

To begin the fourth quarter, the game was tied at 68 each. Seattle had clawed back and was playing a physical game against Los Angeles. The Storm had battled their way back into it, and with their veterans, it seemed like they could work their way back into it. Seattle has the veteran leadership to be able to close out games, but that characteristic clutch performance did not show in this game.

LAS VEGAS, NV -MAY 8: Breanna Stewart #30 of the Seattle Storm handles the ball during the game against the Las Vegas Aces on May 8, 2022 at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. 2022 NBAE (Photo by David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

While Breanna Stewart had a great performance throughout, her shots did not fall late. Jewell Loyd had a somewhat off game. Gabby Williams is still seeking consistent offensive footing. Storm head coach Noelle Quinn would reflect on the offensive decision making late.

“Shot selection was bad. I don’t wanna say that every shot was bad or contested, but I have a snapshot in my head of a lot of bad shots, out of rhythm shots, a lot of rushed shots,” Quinn remarked.

This is an ugly loss for Seattle. While the Sparks do have talent on their roster, they are a team in disarray. They don’t have things figured out, and are playing under an interim head coach. Seeing the shot selection by Seattle late, the complete shift in the way that the game was going, is disappointing. While Mercedes Russell is out, the Storm should have won this game. Rumors about Tina Charles signing with Seattle are nice, but there are issues that need to be resolved even after a potential addition. With two months to play in the regular season, there are some key weeks coming up for Seattle to figure things out.

The Storm’s next matchup comes Wednesday, June 29th against the Las Vegas Aces. A battle of the top two of teams in the Western Conference tips off at 7PM PST inside of Climate Pledge Arena. Seattle will need to turn things around quickly if they want to have any sort of chance against this high-flying Aces team.

Storm use late run to pull away in 83-71 victory over Mystics

Photo by Aaron Nelson / fi360 News

Seattle, WA – In a battle between two talent laden rosters, the Seattle
Storm pulled away late against the Washington Mystics. The game
was close throughout, totaling seven lead changes, but a 14-2 by
Seattle wrapped it up.

Jewell Loyd led all scorers with 22 points, as four of the Storm’s five starters were in double digits. With the win, Seattle is now 5-1 in their last six games and sit firmly at second in the Western Conference.


Young Storm talented center Ezi Magbegor has been on a
tremendous rise this season, which has been a key to Seattle’s
success. Magbegor, with Mercedes Russell out due to injury, has
taken advantage of increased minutes. Ezi showed that in this game
as well, pouring in 20 points (tied for second most in the game) while
adding five rebounds and two blocks. The Australian center also leads
the entire WNBA in blocks per game, averaging 2.7 rejections a game.
Having Magbegor growth will certainly be a welcome addition to a
Storm team looking for a third option. Teammate Breanna Stewart
discussed Magbegor growth postgame.

Washington Mystic passes before going out of bounds. Photo by fi360 News


“I think that Ezi is really continuing to develop in this league.
Especially with us in year three, coming in and taking a much bigger
role with Mercedes being in an out of our lineup. She’s making the
right reads, understanding what teams are doing defensively…. she’s
finishing strong, well through contact,” Stewart stated.

The Storm bench has been a wildcard this season. There are
stretches of games where the bench sees a great contribution, with
veterans like Jantel Lavender and Briann January adding an edge.
This game saw a very low input from the second unit, as the bench
only added nine points. A key piece to a championship team, let alone
a good playoff team, is a productive bench. The Storm cannot afford
to rely on its big three all the time, especially considering that Gabby
Williams is looking to find consistent offense.

Head coach Noelle Quinn discussed her bench postgame.


“Yeah, I’d like some more from them, but today, there was a lot of
good carry over. With the movement that they showed offensively.
Defensively, they were on a string. I want to trust them and keep them
in, I see the growth in it. It’s small steps, but it is good steps in the
right direction. There were good things that unit did today,” Quinn
would reflect.


This Storm team shows flashes of its potential in different ways each
night. Whether it be the growth of Magbegor, Gabby Williams having a
breakout game in New York, the bench on fire, etc. They seem to be
mostly finding their stride heading into the All-Star break, but it will be
key that once they find it, they keep it going. Around this same time
last season, the Storm were rolling. Breanna Stewart looked like a
lock for the MVP award, and Seattle had won the Commissioners cup.
Keeping that momentum is key, as you want to be the team that finds
their stride heading into the playoffs.


The Storm have a relatively quick turnaround for their next game, as
they battle the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday, June 25th at Climate
Pledge Arena. Tipoff is at 6PM PST, as the struggling Sparks come to
town looking to rebound.

Defense dooms Sparks as Sky breeze to 82-59 win

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LOS ANGELES–Nneka Ogwumike led the Los Angeles Sparks with 15 points and four rebounds, and Brittney Sykes added 13 points and five rebounds as the Sparks lost to the Chicago Sky 82-59.

The Sparks fall out of the final playoff position with the loss as they reach the season’s midpoint.

Los Angeles’s rebounding woes and defensive lapses continued against the Sky. Former Sparks and current Sky, Candace Parker led the rebounding charge for the Sky with 14 en-route to setting a WNBA record for her third triple-double. Parker’s second triple-double of the season moves her past Sheryl Swoopes, Courtney Vandersloot, and Sabrina Ionescu, whom all have two.


Defensively, Los Angeles was out of sorts — frequently failing to rotate and giving Chicago easy open looks at the rim.


“I thought the rotation was okay at points,” said Sparks head coach Fred Williams. “It’s hard to rotate when you’re in transition, and that’s all about the will and getting back and stopping the basketball and not giving players and teams layups.”


If the Sparks are to turn things around, they are running out of games to do so.

Aces trump Sparks in a blowout

Photo by Chanel Foster / fi360 News

LOS ANGELES– Nneka Ogwumike scored 16 points as the Los Angeles Sparks lost to the Las Vegas Aces 89-72 and fell in a two-way tie with the New York Liberty for 8th place.

Photo by Chanel Foster / fi360 News


The Sparks played noticeably different after they parted ways with former General Manager and Head Coach Derek Fisher. Interim head coach Frank Williams vowed to distribute minutes equally amongst the roster; however, no one that Los Angeles threw at Aja Wilson could stop her.


The Las Vegas center was in MVP form, scoring 22 of her season-high 35 points in the first half.


However, at times Wilson left Liz Cambage visibly frustrated.


Williams stated, “Guarding Aja Wilson is a tough task because she knows how to get down and fadeaway and get her shot up.”

Photo by Chanel Foster / fi360 News


Moving forward, Williams plans on altering defensive schematics in hopes that it can protect Cambage.


“With a new way that we are trying to be aggressive on defense, it’s going to help Liz a little bit more to keep her inside the paint instead of coming out on the shooter.”


Despite the drubbing, Williams and the Sparks remain optimistic. Williams wants the Sparks to shoot 75-80 shots a game. Los Angeles shot 36.6% from the field on 26-of-71 attempts. The length of Las Vegas crowded the paint and forced the Sparks to settle for long jumpers.


Los Angeles battled and stayed engaged despite the insurmountable deficit.

“I still had their eyes in the huddle,” Williams stated.

Photo by Chanel Foster / fi360 News


The Sparks, having twice faced the Aces with minimal practice time, have been dealt bad hands.


Los Angeles has had little time to sure up defensive schemes and philosophies. In addition, Los Angeles’ restrictions and a coaching change have not been easy on the talent-rich team.

Nonetheless, Williams stated, “By the time we play next time here at home, you will see a big-time result here with this team.”

Sparks fans look forward to the changes that lie ahead.

Storm avoid nightmare end to homestand with 72-60 win over Atlanta Dream

Photo by Aaron Nelson / fi360 News

Seattle, WA – The Seattle Storm ended their historic eight game homestand with a satisfying victory against the Atlanta Dream. There were shades of Seattle’s past two games, losses that came due to an inability to finish. That wouldn’t be the case, and one instance in particular was a perfect example of it. In the fourth quarter, the Dream went on a 13-point run to bring them within striking distance. Instead of failing to respond, Breanna Stewart hit a three pointer and the Storm were able to pull away.

Seattle’s point guard Jewell Loyd continues her hot form from a breakout 2021 campaign. Loyd, nicknamed the Gold Mamba, again led the team in scoring with 26 points. Loyd sparked the offense, including a 13-point first quarter. The Gold Mamba also was one of only two players to get to the free throw line, going a perfect six for six. Loyd’s offensive fire is a primary factor in Seattle’s ability to contend, and she discussed her night postgame.

Photo by Aaron Nelson / fi360 News

“I don’t think the basket felt any bigger, I was getting some good rhythm shots from my teammates getting me open, taking what the defense gave me. I was just trying to make the game as simple as possible. Night by night, we don’t know what defenses will do, but knowing that regardless of that I can pass it to these guys (referring to Stewart and Magbegor), we’re in good hands,” Loyd remarked.

For momentums sake, Seattle needed to bounce back from their last two losses. Having leads, failing to hit shots, and just looking like a shell of who they are made some worried about the Storm. It is early, and the Storm are growing, and some of that growth showed in this win. Seattle closed out this game with timely buckets and stiff defense, holding young stars Rhyne Howard and Aari McDonald to 18 points collectively.

An eight game homestand is tied for the longest in WNBA history, and it is a big opportunity for the team in question to build chemistry. Over the course of those eight games, Seattle finishes the set with a 5-3 record. The Storm will now prepare for a five-game road trip, featuring rematches the last two teams they lost to in Dallas and Connecticut. With limited practice reps, Seattle will have to build chemistry and work towards contending in-game. Head coach Noelle Quinn would discuss how the team will do that postgame

Photo by Aaron Nelson / fi360 News

“We don’t have practice time. We will have to find ways to get better in game, watching film in those sessions. Feeling the rhythm, feeling the cadence, feeling the chemistry with each other, it has to happen fast and immediately. In games like this, we show the team that we can be when we have our film sessions,” Quinn stated.

Seattle’s next matchup comes on Friday, June 10th against the Dallas Wings. The Storm will start their road trip in Dallas, with a 5PM PST tip off. Seattle will look to contain the back court of Arike Ogunbowale, Allisha Gray, and Marina Mabrey better than the first time that the two teams matched up. Those three together accounted for more than half of the Wings points.

Photo by Aaron Nelson / fi360 News

LA Sparks Part Ways with General Manager/Head Coach Derek Fisher

LOS ANGELES (June 7, 2022) – The Los Angeles Sparks announced today that the organization has parted ways with General Manager/Head Coach Derek Fisher, effective immediately. Assistant Coach Fred Williams will serve as Interim Head Coach for the remainder of the 2022 season. The Sparks will now begin a search for the next general manager.

“After a thorough evaluation of the state of our team, the Sparks and GM/Head Coach Derek Fisher have agreed to part ways,” Managing Partner Eric Holoman said. “On behalf of our ownership group, I want to thank Derek for his efforts and contributions to the Sparks franchise. We wish him the best moving forward. I have full confidence in Fred Williams to step into the role of interim head coach, bringing a wealth of experience leading WNBA teams.”

Fred Williams

Fisher was hired as head coach on Dec. 5, 2018, and named general manager on Dec. 22, 2020. In three plus seasons, Fisher had a regular season record of 54-46. The team qualified for the postseason twice in his tenure, with a 1-4 playoff record. The Sparks are currently 5-7 and sit in 8th place in the WNBA standings.

“I want to thank the LA Sparks organization, ownership, staff, players, and fans for the opportunity they have afforded me over the last four years as a part of this historic franchise,” Fisher said. “Their support has allowed me to grow as both a coach and front office executive and I am proud of what we have accomplished.”

“The Sparks and I have mutually agreed to part ways as I shift my focus back to pursuing other opportunities and private endeavors,” Fisher added. “It has been an amazing ride and I wish the entire LA sparks organization great success moving forward.”

Interim Head Coach Fred Williams takes over with 30 years of experience in women’s basketball. He most recently served as head coach of the Tulsa Shock/Dallas Wings from 2014-2018, where he coached Sparks center Liz Cambage. Williams has also been the head coach of the Atlanta Dream (2012-2013), the Utah Starzz (1999-2001), and the University of Southern California (1995-1997). In 2013, he led the Dream to the WNBA Finals.

“I appreciate the opportunity to steer the team under these circumstances, alongside assistant coaches Latricia Trammell and Seimone Augustus,” Williams said. “We have a talented group of players focused on making a run to the WNBA playoffs and we will collectively embrace this challenge.”

WNBA

The Sparks next game is Saturday, June 11 against the Las Vegas Aces at 6 p.m. PT at Crypto.com Arena.

ABOUT THE LOS ANGELES SPARKS

Founded in 1996, the Los Angeles Sparks are one of three original franchises in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). The Sparks have won three WNBA Championships (2001, 2002, 2016), have qualified for the playoffs in 20 of their 25 seasons and remain the only active team in the league to win back-to-back titles. The Los Angeles Sparks are dedicated to ensuring each home game at Crypto.com Arena has a championship level entertainment experience while showcasing the best female athletes from around the world on the court. LA Sparks 2022 season tickets are available here for purchase.

Sun burn through the Storm with big fourth quarter in 93-86 win

Photo by Aaron Nelson / fi 360 News

Seattle, WA – A 32-point fourth quarter and monster efforts from Brionna Jones and Jonquel Jones gave the Connecticut Sun a comeback win over the Seattle Storm. Seattle started the game hot, as Ezi Magbegor’s big game started by scoring the Storm’s first eight points. Ultimately, Seattle’s mistakes and uncharacteristically subpar defense gave them the loss, dropping their record to 5-5 on the season.

At a point in the first half, the Storm lead sat at 13. Heading into the fourth quarter, Seattle’s lead was six points. Four minutes into that final quarter, the Sun had flipped the game on its head and lead by eight. Connecticut was able to get to the charity stripe with ease, attempting 30 free throws. While the Sun only made six shots from beyond the arch on the night, a couple threes in that quarter by DeWanna Bonner and DiJonai Carrington hurt Seattle. The Storm’s inability to build on leads continues, this time resulting in a loss. Storm point guard Sue Bird stated what she thought went into the loss.

Photo by Aaron Nelson / fi360 News

“This is one of those games where it is hard to pinpoint what went wrong. When I watch film, I’ll have a better answer for you… it felt like we had a lot of turnovers, and the basket got bigger and bigger for them. They were hitting threes late that they didn’t hit in the first half. They were able to comeback when we were up by ten at one point. Once they got things going, we couldn’t find ways to overcome it,” Bird said.

The Connecticut duo of Brionna Jones and Jonquel Jones caused problems for Seattle all game, but especially in the second half. The two Jones’ combined for 46 of Connecticut’s 93 points, and they seemingly powered the Sun comeback. Jonquel Jones is coming off of an MVP season in 2021, and hadn’t started this season off in that way until this matchup. The June 5th game against Seattle may be a launching point for Jonquel, who totaled 25 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Seattle point guard Sue Bird would reflect on the impact the Sun front court had on the game.

“This is a team that was very high in rebounding coming in, we knew we had to be on our game in offensive rebounding. When you add the size, it makes them hard to guard down low. I personally don’t think its insurmountable, I think we made mistakes that they capitalized on. If you noticed in the second half, we played a lot of zone; that’s not normally what we play. These are things that we have to work on,” Bird reflected.

This is a tough loss for Seattle to swallow, considering that the team at one point held a 13-point lead over a great Connecticut team. Add to the fact that the Storm had their full roster healthy for the first time all season, and you would figure that Seattle won this game. There are some reasons for concern when you look at the Storm losses, but ultimately it is not time to panic. Seattle now has their full roster, they will continue to build, and will have to learn from the past two losses.

Photo by Aaron Nelson / fi360 News

The Storm will close out their historic homestand with a matchup against the Atlanta Dream at Climate Pledge Arena. Tipoff is at 7PM PST on Tuesday, June 7th as Atlanta brings their 7-4 record to town for the first time this season. A new look Dream, showing a ton of improvement over last season, will look to hand Seattle their third straight loss.

Storm unable to overcome Wings hot start, fall 68-51

Photo by Aaron Nelson / fi360 News

Seattle, WA – The contest between the Seattle Storm and Dallas Wings was a gritty, hard-fought matchup. Several calls did not go Seattle’s way, and the whistles got into the Storm’s head. Several times it looked like Seattle may be mounting a comeback, but time and time again Dallas would answer. The Storm record would drop to 5-4 overall, and 2-3 in commissioners cup play.

To start the season, the Storm bench played a critical role in the team’s success. Players such as Epiphanny Prince and Steph Talbot had provided a spark off the bench, on both ends of the court. In this loss to Dallas, Seattle’s bench as a collective scored two points. Those came from Mercedes Russell, who was playing her first minutes of the season. The offense as a whole has not fully hit their stride, and that was apparent in this game. Head coach Noelle Quinn spoke on what she needed to see from the bench going forward.

“Think about what we’ve done defensively to get that group going, that is where it starts… Pip is a consummate professional, but we need more from her. Steph is coming back; she needs to get into rhythm. We have players that have the ability to influence the energy, that group needs to work a little extra to get better shots,” Quinn said.

The Dallas Wings responded to Seattle’s comeback attempts, time and time again. There were multiple instances where the Storm would begin to claw their way back, but the Wings would answer back.

Whether it was a three pointer to answer back, or Dallas scoring off of Seattle turnovers, the Wings had all the answers. It was clear that the Storm never really felt comfortable, but it is still relatively early in the season. Seattle has still yet to play with all 12 players on their roster healthy. Head coach Noelle Quinn would discuss the mindset in the locker room following the loss.

“I made sure that we touched on the fact that no matter what lineup is on the floor, no matter who we have available to play, our competitiveness and fight cannot waiver. I don’t think that we had that consistently tonight. By no means do we panic, but we cannot rely on getting people back. Not everything will be okay. We have to consistently show up on both sides of the court, and consistently be pros,” Quinn would remark.

This matchup sat near the top of the list when it came to toughest games that the Storm could play in their homestand. Dallas is a young team that has plenty of offensive firepower, and loads of potential with all but two players on their roster aged 25 or younger. Last season, the two teams played three times. Those three games were decided by a collective seven points. This game will certainly be a learning opportunity and a chance for the Storm to look at themselves in the mirror.

Seattle will not have a lot of time to reflect, as their next game is on Sunday, June 5th as they welcome the Connecticut Sun to town. The Sun boast an 8-3 record to this point in the season, and while Jonquel Jones has not played up to her MVP level, Alyssa Thomas has picked up the slack. A rebound opportunity for the Storm, but a difficult test at that. Tipoff is at 3PM PST.

Sparks hold on with Sykes Scoring

Los Angeles, CA – With .08 left on the clock the Los Angeles Sparks foul Arike Ogunbowale #24 when she drove hard to the basket and crashed into Liz Cabage #1. They say pressure break a pipe but after Ogunbowale first free throw attempt bounce around on the rim and fell out the Sparks 2-point lead appeared to be safe. She then tried to get a lane violation on the second shot which resulted in penalty on Ogunbowale the shooter. No one was ready for what happen next, Ogunbowale kicked and broken something on the scorer’s table in frustration. 

The last thing the Sparks did was toss the ball up high to Cambage to allow clock to hit zero and secure a 93-91 dog fight victory of the Wings at Cryto.com Arena. 

Who knows if those last two free throws drop in and they play overtime. The Wings comeback was led by the ‘Ballerina’ Isabelle Harrison who dropped a team high 20 points along with 8 rebounds. It was like watching the female version of Tim Duncan just so smooth going to work effortlessly. 

Good thing for the Sparks Brittney Sykes off the bench inspired her team with 25 points and 6 assists in only 26 minutes of play. Four other players scored in double figures Cambage with 19 points, Nneka Ogwumike 16 points 10 rebounds, and Katie Lou Samuelson with 13 points. 

Chennedy Carter getting the start in place of Jordin Canada who did not play due to strained left hamstring. Carter played defense on Marina Mabrey and Ogunbowale to atleast slow them down. 

Nneka Ogwumike

The Sparks held a 12-point lead at half that evaporated by the Wings due to 2nd chances points and crashing the boards hard. Before the Sparks could look up the Wings held their largest lead of the game up by three points. 

Despite allowing the Wings to have five players in double figures, it was their defense down the stretch getting key stops that allowed the Sparks to regain the lead and secure the victory. 

Dallas really didn’t have an answer for Cambage in the paint, especially after Teaira McCowan got into foul trouble early and was the only starter not to finish with double digits points.  

“Going through the adversity of the start of the season and having to ask the hard questions right from the start, to me, that will help us over time,” said coach Fisher  

Coach Fisher Sparks are forming before our eyes as a team, with anybody number being called. If they can continue to step up who knows what they will look like coming down the stretch when home games will be flooding the schedule.  

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