The Los Angeles Sparks entered the 2020 WNBA season with high expectations and a great deal of hype, ready to wash away the taste of a disappointing end to 2019.
For one game at least, they lived up to those lofty goals, putting together a dominating effort against another preseason favorite in the Phoenix Mercury, winning 99-76. They blew the game open in the third quarter, outscoring the Mercury 30-8 to build a 26-point advantage.
It would have been fair to expect some sloppy play, as the Sparks didn’t play any preseason games, and a few of their players didn’t even play overseas during the WNBA offseason, including Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker. However, L.A.’s starting frontcourt easily shook off the rust, winning the matchup against all-WNBA center Brittney Griner.
Parker in particular had what was arguably her best game since the 2018 season, showing off the explosiveness that eluded her in an injury-riddled campaign last year. She got the rim easily on her first score of the game and was generally active on both ends of the floor, finishing with 13 points and seven rebounds.
Roughly 5 million reasons for the Sparks to be encouraged by Today's game, but Candace Parker doing Candace Parker things is pretty clearly reason number one. pic.twitter.com/XKPko8EDFY— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) July 25, 2020
Her frontcourt counterpart Ogwumike was even more impressive, using incredible footwork to finish in the post over the length of Griner, who is six inches taller than the Sparks big. Ogwumike had it going from everywhere on the floor, hitting all eight of her shots, including two threes, to lead the Sparks with 21 points. It brought back memories of her 2016 MVP season, when Ogwumike shot 66.5% from the field and set a WNBA single-game record of 12 field goals without a miss.
The Sparks also had outstanding debuts from two newcomers, Seimone Augustus and Brittney Sykes. Augustus has made a living in the midrange for 14 years in Minnesota, and it turns out the jumper traveled with her to the Sparks. Augustus hit all six of her field-goal attempts, tying Ogwumike for a team-best +24 while she was on the court. She had a personal 9-0 run in the third quarter as L.A. pulled away.
Sykes, meanwhile, made her mark on the defensive end and in transition. The highlight of her day was a stuff on Griner, which she followed up with a 3-pointer on the other end. Sykes added three steals and one beautiful finish on the fast break.
The Sparks knew one of their advantages heading into this season would be their depth, and that was on full display in the win. They’ll get their next opportunity to showcase that strength against Chicago on Tuesday.