The Dallas Wings have played six games this WNBA season, and two of them have come against the Los Angeles Sparks.
They’re also the only two wins for the Wings.
Not exactly a sterling endorsement of L.A.’s season.
The Sparks defense was markedly improved from their 94-71 loss to Dallas on opening night, but to say their offense struggled would be a disservice to what transpired on the court.
L.A. got on the board early, and had 14 points — and a 14-7 lead — halfway through the opening quarter. And then they proceeded to only score 14 more points for the entire rest of the half. That dismal offensive showing left them trailing 38-28 at halftime, and erased what was, to that point, a fairly strong defensive performance, save for letting former Spark Marina Mabrey spring free beyond the arc a few times.
Things briefly improved for the Sparks in the second half, as a 4-0 run out of the gates led to Dallas calling a timeout inside the first minute. But the timeout paid off, as Dallas rattled off a 10-0 run that kept L.A. off the scoreboard for nearly five minutes.
The Sparks gave things another run at the end of the corner, and got the deficit down to five, but Dallas once again responded, and carried a comfortable double-digit lead for the bulk of the fourth quarter. It never felt close in the final frame.
There was plenty to like about L.A.’s defense, which forced 16 turnovers and blocked 10 shots — including six by Nia Coffey. The held Dallas under 40% shooting, and limited reigning scoring champ Arike Ogunbowale to 14 points on 3-for-12 shooting.
Yet it wasn’t nearly enough to make up for the shortcomings on offense or on the glass. The Sparks struggled all night to find rhythm scoring the ball, as the rock was stagnant through all 40 minutes. There were limited off-ball cuts, a distinct lack of extra passes, and a high number of questionable shots. L.A. looked comfortable scoring when they got in transition, and confused as to what to do in the halfcourt.
The results were disastrous: the Sparks shot just 37.5% from the field, and registered a mere 11 assists. They were sloppy on offense, but more importantly, they simply lacked motion. Their offense resembled pick-up basketball at the park more than anything with a system, and they’ll surely look to fix that before Thursday’s game against the Indiana Fever.
That said, their most reliable offensive options did shine, albeit in limited usage. Kristi Toliver led the team with 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting, while Nneka Ogwumike added 10 on 4-for-5 shooting. But the rest of the Sparks shot just 15-for-53.
L.A. rested starting center Chiney Ogwumike for the second consecutive game, and while she would not have singlehandedly fixed the team’s issues on the boards, the All-Star likely would have helped them not get outrebounded 41-24.
As it is, the Sparks will have to shake off another disappointing loss and regroup before Thursday’s return home. If they can recapture the execution that led to a 2-0 trip through Chicago over the weekend, they’ll be all right. But if they keep playing as they’ve done against Dallas — a team that doesn’t figure to make much noise in the standings — then it will be a long and disappointing season.