One of the key advantages the Los Angeles Sparks have over other teams in the WNBA bubble is that they have 12 rotation-caliber players. While every team dealt with opt-outs and absences due to coronavirus, L.A. was one of the few who still managed to field a complete roster in Bradenton, Florida, despite those circumstances. That depth was the deciding factor in the team’s 81-64 win over the Washington Mystics Thursday.
The Sparks used 10 players against Washington, while the Mystics really only had seven players head coach Mike Thibault appeared to trust. That meant that L.A. could throw waves of players on the floor, at times appearing like they had an extra body on defense, while Washington wore down after the first quarter. Seven Sparks scored at least eight points, compared to only four for the Mystics.
L.A.’s depth came in handy early. With the starting lineup slow to get going on the offensive end, the Sparks simply turned to their bench. Riquna Williams and Seimone Augustus came in with the team down 9-5 and immediately spurred at 14-0 run (the pair scored 10 of those points) that put L.A. in the lead, an advantage the team would not relinquish over the course of the game.
Williams made her impact on both sides of the ball. While she had her jumper going, Williams also made important plays on defense, including a block of former teammate Essence Carson and a swipe of reigning Finals MVP Emma Meesseman in the post that Williams took to the house for two easy points.
Te’a Cooper was another plus off the bench, bringing additional pace to the game when the Mystics were looking to slow things down. She was a menace in transition and scored 10 points to go along with her three assists.
Even the backup frontcourt, which has been hit or miss at times this season, was largely productive. Kristine Anigwe earned minutes against Washington’s mobile bigs over Reshanda Gray thanks to her lateral quickness. Anigwe matched a career-high with eight points on perfect shooting from the field, and she frustrated Meesseman and Myisha Hines-Allen with her physicality and verticality. She even goaded Hines-Allen into double technicals during the second half.
The Sparks had to be happy with their defensive effort against a team that can get hot in a hurry on offense. They forced 22 turnovers and only allowed the Mystics to shoot 41.7% from the field. That figure goes down to 34.7% if you remove Ariel Atkins, who led all scorers with 20 points.
After alternating wins and losses through the first six games, the Sparks have now won three games in a row. This is exactly the kind of consistency the team has been searching for, with the season already 40 percent complete.