The Sparks started the 25th anniversary off strong with a victory over the Indiana Fever 98-63. Without their two stars Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, the team was full of energy and put their full offensive firepower on display.
Kristi Toliver led the way with a season-high 22 points. She couldn’t miss as she leads the WNBA in field goal percentages. “Coaches and teammates encouraged me to shoot the ball, so that fueled,” says Toliver. Sparks exposed the Fever with the small lineup, and until Nneka and Chiney return, playing small ball will be their offensive identity.
Over the next 4-6 weeks, Toliver said the Sparks plan to compete at a high level and explore different lineups.
Fisher stated how the Sparks had lost a few players recently, so everyone has to have the next woman-up mentality in order for them to win. “What has happened since we lost bodies, teammates and players; Everyone knows they have to do their job in order for them to win. I think that pressure and accountability mean they’ll say, I can’t be the weak link tonight.”
The Sparks had their best shooting game of the season. Everyone was locked in, according to Fisher. He wants that mentality to carry over even if they don’t shoot well. “Players were confident because they knew were going to play.” The Sparks’ drive and kick offense was a success, but Fisher would like to try different strategies because every team will not be the same size as the Fever. Disruption on the defensive end and causing turnovers is something Fisher aspires to see from his team.
As the margin for error is small because the Sparks are shorthanded, they will have to commit and rely on one another, says Fisher. In the past, they have been able to make mistakes because of their talent. They don’t have that option this season.
Sparks point guard Erica Wheeler pushed the pace of her team. Wheeler finished with 14 points and five assists. She stated they would like to keep the same pace going forward.
Bria Holmes dominated the game with rebounding and energy on the floor. One of the main reasons the Sparks were excited to sign her this offseason. Holmes finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, and 2-3 from three. “It felt good to see the ball go in tonight, that’s my goal, and I know what I’m capable of doing. I’m going to continue to work on what I need to work on and get better every game,” she says. Holmes embraces the confidence Fisher, and her teammates instill within her.
Nia Coffey stepped up big for the Sparks. She finished with 13 points and shot 4-4 from the field and 3-3 from beyond the arc.
Sparks will face the Chicago Sky on Saturday. Unfortunately, former Spark Candace Parker will not be in uniform as she suffers from an injury.