Sparks can’t keep pace with Lynx

Photo by Deyla Davis / fi360 News

The Sparks were no match for the Minnesota Lynx in last night’s game. They struggled to get defensive stops, execute plays, and make shots. The Lynx capitalized on the Sparks weaknesses and dominated inside and outside the paint, and on the defensive end for a 82-67 victory.

Kayla McBride, Dorka Juhasz, and Bridget Carleton recorded double-digit points to secure the
win against the Sparks. Carleton was hot from three, with all her points coming from behind the arc. Alanna Smith and Juhasz added six rebounds apiece. Sparks All-Star Dearica Hamby was once again the leading scorer with 18 points and eight rebounds. Azura Stevens added nine points and six rebounds for the Sparks.

The first quarter began with back-and-forth baskets for both teams. The Sparks started off strong with a nice elbow shot from guard Aari McDonald and a smooth jumper from Stevens as she started her second game back from injury. The Lynx quickly matched the Sparks high energy with post domination from Carleton and Juhasz.

From there, the Lynx went on a six-point run, forcing the Sparks into a timeout. The high-pressure defense from the Lynx resulted in continuous turnovers for the Sparks. Lynx bench players Natisha Heideman and Alissa Pili immediately impacted the game, hitting deep threes and shifty buckets through traffic. They continued to break down the Sparks defense with fast-paced movement, screens, and cuts to extend the lead to double digits, going into the second quarter with a score of 29-16.

Photo by Deyla Davis / fi360 News

Layshia Clarendon rekindled the momentum for the Sparks as the second quarter began with two consecutive shots, but Cecilia Zandalasini was unstoppable from behind the arc. Hamby and Stevens were able to connect for high-low action buckets, but Carleton had a three-point response for the Sparks. The Sparks struggled to get stops and translate defensive stops into baskets. The Lynx went on an 11-point run with long shots from McBride and Carleton. The lead was extended into double figures going into halftime, with a score of 51-35.

“When you’re down 16 at halftime, it’s not insurmountable, but certainly that locker room
is disappointed when we walk in at halftime,” said Coach Miller.

McDonald hoped to start a momentum comeback for the Sparks with an easy layup for two, but the Lynx’s shots continued to fall as McBride hit a long jumper to maintain the double-digit lead. The back-and-forth baskets between the teams started again. Rickea Jackson hit a much-needed jumper, and Hamby showed her power with a strong finish down low.

Lynx guard Courtney Williams was hot from midrange, and Juhasz continued to display her length and skill advantage in the post. The Lynx went on a nine-point run, pressuring the Sparks into a timeout. The Sparks returned with more energy as Stevens and Hamby connected for two and Zia Cooke hit a corner three, but they couldn’t cut the lead.

The last stretch of the game belonged to the Lynx. Pili hit a corner jumper to make it a 21-point lead. The Sparks picked up the defensive pressure, causing the Lynx into multiple shot-clock violations, but were unable to convert stops into points. The Sparks were sped up by the Lynx defense, adding more turnovers and failed shot attempts to the stat sheet. The Lynx’s chemistry, play execution, defensive pressure, and made shots helped them secure a 15-point win.

“They outplayed us, they out-executed us, and certainly would have to say outcoached
us,” said Coach Miller. “They did what we feared they would do.”

The Sparks will have a two-day break to regroup and adjust as they face the Dallas Wings in their territory on Saturday, July 13.