LOS ANGELES–The Los Angeles Sparks are a gritty and resilient bunch. Eight of their first ten games are away from their beds, routines, and families. Yet, they forge forward in shaping their identity as a team and learning the nuances and strengths of one another, with minimal
practice time as games count and wins and losses are amassed.
In their second game with their home crowd, 4,020 dedicated fans tensely watched the Sparks hold on to a 99-94 win over the Phoenix Mercury for their first home victory.
“I said this right after the game, ‘That home energy is different,'” Lexie Brown stated.
The home energy kept Los Angeles afloat over the remaining 3:11 in the game after Nneka Ogwumike scored the Sparks’ final field goal. Phoenix went on an 11-2 run down the stretch and fought to snatch the victory from Los Angeles, but the Sparks’ time on the road, on planes, in hotels, and on buses paid off.
Amidst the defensive mishaps and offensive blunders is a team that is committed to playing defense and taking the open shot. They know the potential within.
“We have full confidence in everybody who shoots the ball. We get mad when people pass up shots because that’s the right shot,” Brittany Sykes said.
The Sparks saw Katie Lou Samuelson break out of a shooting slump and set a WNBA career-high with 17 points as she went 4-for-5 from three. Samuelson and fellow sniper in Brown, who went 2-for-2 from deep en route to 10 points, provided Ogwumike and Liz Cambage the space to do damage on the interior. Against Phoenix, Ogwumike led Los Angeles with 23 points as Cambage chipped in 21.
By adding eight new players to their roster, the Sparks know they must endure growing pains building team cohesion.
“It’s going to be really exciting to see what we look like a month from now,” Brown stated. “Then all of July people should be scared to come here in July. We are going to be here rested, chilling, practicing — next month we are going to see some really good leaps. But July is going to be scary.”
The Sparks have the guile; they only need to jell. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, scary moments are ahead.