The Los Angeles Sparks could not overcome the speed and accuracy of the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA Semifinals. In the Walter Pyramid in California State University Long Beach, the Sparks lost 56-78 and were out of Playoff contention.
The young Sun squad showed flashes of greatness in previous seasons, but head coach Curt Miller planned for the 2019 season to be a special year.
“You can see what happens when a core group plays together for four years,” he said. “It’s just amazing that that group has allowed the vision that we had all come together.”
Connecticut shut down the Sparks backcourt offense throughout the series, making it nearly impossible for guards Riquna Williams and Chelsea Gray to shoot beyond their scoring averages.
Meanwhile, the Sun landed more shots and that was no different in Game Three. Connecticut went for 32 percent from behind the arc compared to the Sparks’ 10 percent. The Sun also shot at 43 percent in field goals, the Sparks shot at 30.7 percent.
“I feel like we were just doing what we do, it’s not really a magic potion to it,” Sun guard Courtney Williams said.
Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike led the team with 17 points, despite running a fever the night before. Sun guard Jasmine Thomas led her team with 29 points and guard Courtney Williams secured 13 rebounds with 17 points.
“They’re both great players.” Sparks guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt said about Williams and Thomas. “I think for us it was just being able to play team defense, it’s not really a one-on-one thing.”
The first quarter started slowly for the Sparks as they struggled to get shots. The Sun kept the ball in their hands, with guard Courtney Williams leading in scoring with nine points. Guard Alana Beard initiated a 7-4 run to help the Sparks going into the second quarter.
Alexis Jones three-pointer gave the Sparks their first lead of the game, guard Jasmine Thomas quickly responded with a three-pointer. The Sun battled for rebounds and had few problems scoring from any part of the floor. The Sparks struggled with turnovers and missing shots.
When L.A. would close the deficit, Connecticut would break away to score. The Sparks’ offense dried up in the third period, the team was shooting at 19 percent from field and the Sun’s lead expanded.
The Sparks, a team with great depth who defended home court throughout the season, where out of sorts on Sunday. Could the change of homecourt have affected L.A.? Despite their 15-2 home record, the Sparks had a 7-10 record in away games. Travel eats up practice time, and the strength and conditioning and player development coaches don’t travel, according to Sparks head coach Derek Fisher.
“When you have limited time to get on the court together … and to be able to still hold a level of consistency and greatness on the road, there has to be a chemistry and a connection and a togetherness,” Fisher said. “I thought our players did the best job they could at times.”
Head coach Derek Fisher noted how the team was not able have a shoot around at Walter Pyramid. Yet the core players had seen success in the college arena.
“We had some really great games here, but for me personally I just did whatever I could to be ready,” Nneka said. “I always loved playing in Long Beach, as you can see the ambiance is awesome.”