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How the Sparks are racking up so many steals

With the second most steals in the WNBA, Los Angeles has found early success in causing turnovers and havoc on defensive end.

Los Angeles Sparks v Seattle Storm Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

With 55 steals through their first six games, the Los Angeles Sparks are second in the WNBA when it comes to forcing the opposition to cough up the rock. By virtue of their quick hands, this has led to more transition buckets and the team being third-best in the league in terms of points off turnovers according to

To get a better understanding of why the Sparks have been so good at generating steals, it’s important to point out which players have been their most relentless swipers.

Of the team’s 55 steals, four players have been responsible for 40. Jordin Canada (14) has led the way, followed by Nneka Ogwumike (9), Layshia Clarendon (9) and Lexie Brown (8).

“Jordin kind of is the head of the snake defensively,” head coach Curt Miller said following the Sparks’ 92-85 victory over the Seattle Storm. “The game that she didn’t play was our weakest game. There’s no coincidence, she spearheads that defense.”

Thanks to her speed, ability to see the angles and strength to fight off screens, there isn’t a guard in the WNBA that Canada can’t stay in front of. Her first steal of the season is a prime example.

She forces Phoenix guard Moriah Jefferson into the paint and right into her teammate’s awaiting help. Once Jefferson gets stonewalled, Canada reaches in and muscles the ball out. No foul was called, just clean physical play.

The concept of “Basketball IQ” sometimes gets thrown around arbitrarily whenever discussing a player’s wherewithal on the court. Canada, for example, can make some head-scratching plays — particularly on the offensive side of the ball — but she’s as sharp as they come defensively.

In this clip, you see Canada’s awareness and timing on full display. She picks up Chelsea Gray on the wing and as Gray cuts to the basket, Canada not only mirrors her but begins to anticipate the interior pass. She reads it perfectly and breaks up the backdoor chance.

A less aware player would’ve ball-watched and missed the cut leading to an easy layup, but Canada flashed both technique and instinct in creating the turnover.

While only one player ultimately gets credit for a steal, it’s often a collaborative effort. Whether it’s throwing extra bodies at the opposition, applying ball pressure or the help defense waiting in the shadows, it’s all predicated on all five players focused on the task at hand.

One area where the Sparks have shinned in this in particular is jumping into passing lanes. The guard trio of Clarendon, Brown and Canada all excel at this and the result is not only more turnovers, but causing hesitation within their opponents.

Making the opposition “hear footsteps” isn’t something that can be logged in the boxscore. However, between limiting an offense’s aggression and creating a sense of doubt, this level of sprawling defense has been as effective as a steal itself.

The effectiveness and feistiness shown by the team’s defense thus far has signaled the makings of an elite squad when it comes to forcing turnovers. But at still only at a modest 3-3 record, the Sparks have yet to turn these early season positives into a winning record.

Their next chance to get over the .500 hump will come this weekend when they face off against the Chicago Sky on Friday. With the defense already well-established and players like Azurá Stevens back in the lineup, there’s optimism that the best days of the 2023 campaign are on the horizon.

You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.

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