LA Sparks: Postseason around the corner for the Purple and Gold

LA Sparks (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
LA Sparks (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Sparks are 15-5 on the season thus far and extended their winning streak to two games after beating the last-place New York Liberty fairly easily 96-70 on Tuesday.

Forward Nneka Ogwumike led the LA Sparks with 20 points and eight rebounds on the night while forward Candace Parker added 14 points and seven rebounds. Rookie guard Te’a Cooper had 15 points and went 3-for-4 from behind the arc. The biggest upside for the Sparks this season has been bench scoring, and the bench combined for 42 points.

The Sparks have been rolling in the tough Western Conference this season, sitting in third place behind the Seattle Storm and the Las Vegas Aces who are only a game above Los Angeles with the regular season coming to a close.

Los Angeles has a 6-5 record against the teams in the playoffs, and a 5-4 record against teams in the West, including an undefeated series against the Phoenix Mercury, the Dallas Wings, and the Connecticut Sun.

The team is led by Parker, Ogwumike, and guard Chelsea Gray. Parker is averaging almost 15 points a game on over 50 percent shooting, is ranked first in the league with over nine rebounds a game, and averages four and a half assists a game. Gray averages just over 14 points a game on 45 percent shooting, and she is ranked fifth in the league with just over five assists a game. Ogwumike averages almost 13 points a game and is ranked third in the league shooting 57 percent.

But those three aren’t necessarily how the Sparks give teams problems. On any given night, teams are going to find themselves in a hole from outside shooting by a player they least expected.

In the win against the Liberty on Tuesday, it was guard Riquna Williams scoring 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting, including 4-for-9 from three. In the buzzer-beater loss against the Storm and the win against the Wings last week, it was guard Brittany Sykes scoring 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting versus Seattle and 19 points on 5-for-9 shooting, including 3-for-6 from three, against Dallas.

The Sparks have also been battling some injuries thus far, most notably with Ogwumike sitting out four games with back issues, and forward Tierra Ruffin-Pratt injured her shoulder in Tuesday’s game and will likely be out some time after an MRI shows if it’s a dislocation or if it’s something more serious.

As long as things are clicking for Los Angeles on the offensive and defensive ends, they have a real chance at the WNBA championship.

The Sparks play their next game on Thursday against the defending champion Washington Mystics while DC fight for the eighth seed, and then the Sparks face the second-place Las Vegas Aces to finish the regular season on Saturday in the IMG Academy bubble.