The Los Angeles Sparks fell at the hands of the Washington Mystics Thursday night in D.C. in the second round of the WNBA playoffs.
After the Sparks jumped out to an 8-2 lead, the Mystics began to push the pace to find open looks early in the shot clock. When forced to play in the halfcourt, Washington spread L.A. out with their four out, one in attack. When Kristi Toliver and Elena Delle Donne drew multiple defenders, their teammates made L.A. pay for leaving them open.
Natasha Cloud and Tianna Hawkins drilled two 3-pointers apiece, and Washington took a 21-point lead into the break.
The Sparks were coming off a first round win Tuesday night over the Minnesota Lynx. The scheduling of the WNBA’s opening rounds is far from ideal, with games packed close together. The regular season ended Sunday. Round one games were played Tuesday, then round two followed with just one day between games.
All that said, the Sparks got plain beat in this one. They struggled to consistently find good shots. As a team, they shot 6-of-15 from inside the restricted area and just 1-of-9 from deep. Chelsea Gray scored just one point and missed all five of her field goal attempts in 17 first half minutes after completely taking over Tuesday’s game against Minnesota.
L.A. will have some decisions to make as we look ahead to the offseason. Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Jantel Lavender are each under contract through 2020. Guard Sydney Wiese (through 2020) and forward Maria Vadeeva (through 2021) are both still on their rookie contracts.
2017 Defensive Player of the Year Alana Beard, 36, will be a free agent, as will Riquna Williams, Essence Carson, Odyssey Sims — head coach Brian Agler’s entire wing rotation for each of the past two seasons. Karlie Samuelson, who joined the team midway through the season, will also be a free agent.
And Gray, who instantly became a two-time All-Star after taking over as the team’s starting point guard after Toliver signed with Washington in free agency following the 2016 season, will be a restricted free agent. Free agency begins February 1.
The third-seeded Mystics will advance to face the Atlanta Dream in a best-of-five semifinals series beginning Sunday afternoon. The Seattle Storm will await the winner of the second round matchup between the Connecticut Sun and Phoenix Mercury.