By Mykell Mathieu Sports Reporter
The second half of the WNBA season is here after a successful All-Star weekend in Las Vegas. Their fans are ready for their teams to finish the season strong and make a push for the playoffs.
In Los Angeles fans are wondering if the Sparks can get back to the level of play that had the Lady Sparks sitting in the fourth seed earlier in the season. The last time Los Angeles was on the court, July 12, they were dismantled by the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces, 97-78 at Crypto.com Arena in downtown Los Angeles. The purple and gold are limping into the second half of the season as they are currently on a six-game losing streak.
At press time their record was 7-13. Right now, Las Vegas is No.1 at 19-2, followed by New York at 14-5. In third place is Connecticut at 15-6. Atlanta is in fourth place with a record of 12-8 followed by Dallas at 12-9, Washington is 11-9, Minnesota is in seventh place at 9-12 and Chicago is trying to hang on to the last playoff spot with a record of 8-12. The Sparks are currently in ninth place. The WNBA playoffs include the top eight teams.
“ No matter what happens, we’re going to stick together. For the next half of the season, we’re going to keep fighting the same way we did for the first half,” said rookie guard Zia Cooke. “This is a brand-new team, and everything is new and we’re going to figure it out.”
During a zoom press conference held last Tuesday Sparks chief administrative officer Karen Bryant had this to say about the upcoming second half of the season. “What we continue to focus on is what we can control and it’s all about how you respond and adjust. I think that’s what makes a great organization. At the end of the day, we are going to try to win basketball games. We are committed to the second half of the season.”
If Los Angeles is going to “figure it out” and get back to winning basketball games it will start with the hopeful return of some key players who have missed a month or more of game action. Those players are guards Lexie Brown and Layshia Clarendon, who both returned to practice, but when they will return to the lineup remains unclear.
Clarendon was activated on Sunday, five weeks through her estimated four-to-six week injury recovery timeline. Before the foot injury, Clarendon played in six games averaging 7.8 points and 3.7 assists.
Brown, who was playing the best basketball of her career, was the team’s second-leading scorer averaging a career-high 13.3 points to go along with 2.9 assists before she was sidelined by an undisclosed illness.
With those two players returning and some added practice time the team is looking to make a run. “We want to see each other do well and we want to see each other fight out there on the court and be aggressive and also stand in our value,” said All Star forward Nneka Ogwumike. “The ups and downs will always come but you always have to have the perspective of the bigger goal.” That bigger goal for Los Angeles is a playoff berth.
“We want to stick to our pillars,” said Miller. “The players want to make the playoffs. I wasn’t a coach brought here to tank (lose) games. If we can make a run into the playoffs, we will be a tough out.”
The Sparks return to WNBA action on Saturday at 5 p.m. against Dallas on the road. They return home on Tuesday, July 25 against Indiana at 7 p.m. They battle Indiana again on Thursday, July 27 at 12:30 p.m. On Sunday July 30, they face New York at 1 p.m. and they play New York again on Tuesday, August 1, at 7 p.m. The Sparks come into the second half of the season only one game out of the playoffs. So they still have a chance to save their season.