In the words of the late great Chick Hearn, the Los Angeles Sparks “can’t throw a pea into the ocean” right now.
Over the last three games, the Sparks have made just 14 of their 50 attempts from downtown as a team.
So why have they struggled so much from beyond the arc and how can they improve? First, let’s take a look at the breakdown of all 50 of their 3-point attempts.
As the pie chart illustrates, Karlie Samuelson has clearly been the team’s sole 3-point threat with Lexie Brown out with a non-COVID illness. Samuelson has gone 7-11 from deep in her last three games, putting her at an impressive 51.1% from three on the season and also, in possession of the 2nd best true-shooting percentage in the league at 73.9%.
The guard had previously gone through her share of tribulations as she has bounced around the league. But it appears she has finally carved out a role for herself in Los Angeles.
Maybe the answer to the team’s shooting woes then is to find more ways to get Samuelson free the perimeter.
Whether that’s in the form of more transition looks from the wing or corner opportunities from set plays, it has to be a concerted effort for her to get and take them. The latter, is something she admits still needs work.
Karlie Samuelson : 14 points on 5-7 shooting, 4-5 from 3 & 4 assists in 35 minutes pic.twitter.com/rNFRwuIpdC— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) June 26, 2023
“That’s what I get told the most. I get in trouble for is not shooting,” Samuelson told reporters after going 4-5 from deep against Dallas.
“So I don’t know, it’s a feel thing for me. I don’t like to feel like I force it. But it is a good shot, so yeah, I gotta push myself to shoot more.”
Outside of Samuelson, it’s been rough sledding from a team-wide perspective.
Destanni Henderson, Nneka Ogwumike, Rae Burrell and Jordin Canada have shot just a combined 6-23 (26%) from deep in this recent cold stretch. And the likes of Zia Cooke, Dearica Hamby, Jasmine Thomas and Chiney Ogwumike all have failed to make a single attempt.
Can the All-Star do more?
It’s a tall order to ask more from Nneka Ogwumike, but it might be necessary to break this cold spell.
Ogwumike is putting up MVP caliber production and is a WNBA All-Star starter for the second year in a row. Still, can she find a way to shoot closer to her career average from three?
Historically, Ogwumike is a 36% shooter from deep, but this season, she’s shooting just 29% And over the last three games, that number has dipped down to 16%
With her effectiveness in the paint and from the midrange, teams are sagging off her when she receives the ball at the 3-point line. If Ogwumike can convert better from beyond the arc, it will solidify her as a three-level scorer and make it that much harder to defend L.A.
Coalition of the Willing
If it wasn't obvious already, the Sparks are not a team filled with shooters. That said, a turnaround may just come from a willingness to continue to let it fly and trust that a regression to the mean will happen.
Destanni Henderson’s aggression is admirable, especially for a player on a hardship contract, but her 33% shooting from three leaves a lot to be desired.
That said, she was second in 3-point attempts behind Samuelson and has shown to be one of the few players who has not to be afraid to fire away.
The Sparks’ shooting struggles have only been compounded by hesitation beginning to take place. Second-guessing shots will only increase the likelihood that opposing teams will continue to challenge the Sparks to take and make them.
Ultimately, if L.A. doesn't want defenses to just collapse the paint and surround Ogwumike, they’ll need to hit enough shots to keep defenders honest.
No Lexie, Mo Problems
Perhaps the biggest culprit in the Sparks’ flurry of misses is the fact that they are missing their best shooter in Lexie Brown.
Brown has missed the last six games and there has yet to be a significant update on a timetable for her return.
As the Sparks’ starting guard, Brown was off to a sensational start and was putting up career-highs, including shooting 42% from three. That kind of production has proven to be irreplaceable, and has clearly been felt with the team going 2-4 during this stretch.
As the game of basketball evolves, the value of the 3-ball only continues to grow by the day.
Because of this, struggling from that range over an extended period of time can be disastrous for a team. With the Sparks currently at 7-8, they are teetering between being a top team and fighting for a playoff spot.
If they want to be considered the former, they need to find a way to inch closer to league average (34%) and not at the 28% they shot this past week.
They’ll get their first chance to get back on track tonight in their rematch against the Chicago Sky.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.