Are LA Sparks resembling a team that can give Aces or Liberty a scare in WNBA playoffs?

When this year’s WNBA season commenced back in May, we were one of those outlets that were very bullish on the Los Angeles Sparks. 

With the addition of former Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller, who had coached the Sun to a pair of WNBA Finals appearances, and Karen Bryant as general manager, it appeared the Sparks were ready to correct the wrongs of the Derek Fisher error.

For much of this season, it appeared as though those struggles were indeed continuing for Los Angeles following a promising start to the season with an emphatic home victory over the Phoenix Mercury. 

Then, the Sparks began struggling, in part because it has been a team that has been bit heavily by the injury bug this season. 

It appeared as if the Los Angeles’ season was all but over and they had only the offseason and the lottery to look forward to. 

Then – something happened on the way to that offseason. The Sparks began winning – and they were winning, then they won a bit more. 

With the regular season nearing its final games, it was not that long ago that the Los Angeles Sparks were in the throes of a six-game winning streak. The conclusion of the regular season – in a last-minute push for the playoffs – is a very opportune time for a team like the Sparks to get to winning. 

That winning streak was recently snapped on the road – ironically at Miller’s former team in Connecticut. But a pair of wins from that six-game winning binge particularly come to mind. 

One of those victories happened two weekends ago when the Sparks were not that far away from home – on the road at the defending champion Las Vegas Aces. 

Los Angeles had a late lead on Las Vegas, but one had to get the sense that in the fourth quarter that the Aces would do what battle-tested defending champions do in these situations – find a way to win. 

Fortunately for the Sparks that did not happen – and a reason it did not happen was Nneka Ogwumike resembled the former Finals MVP and WNBA champion she is. 

In 37 minutes of playing time, Ogwumike contributed a double-double to what was a winning Sparks effort. She finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds. 

What was even more notable than what Ogwumike did were the heroics of Layshia Clarendon and Jordin Canada. Clarendon led all Los Angeles scorers with 22 points. They also hauled in five rebounds and sent out five assists. 

As for Canada, she also had a big game with 20 points in addition to three assists, three rebounds and three steals.

That contest occurred on August 19. Then came the Sparks matchup with the Atlanta Dream – who also play in an arena that can be tough on road opponents. 

Los Angeles had a five-game win streak going into that matchup with the Dream. And the way things were going, it appeared that win streak would indeed be snapped by Atlanta’s team as the Dream built up a 16-point lead on the Sparks. 

It was the third quarter that got the Sparks back into that game. Los Angeles outscored Atlanta by a margin of 23-12 and that sixth consecutive victory became more clearly in sight for the Sparks. 

It was an 83-78 win over Atlanta. Ogwumike once again looked like Ogwumike with another double-double of 29 points and 12 rebounds. Azura Stevens had a big game with an 18 point performance. Canada also caused problems on both ends of the floor for the Dream. She finished with 15 points, nine assists and six steals. Clarendon chimed in with 14 points in addition to four assists. 

As of this writing, the Sparks’ record currently stands at 15-19. If the postseason were to start today, Los Angeles would begin the playoffs in the first round against the first-seeded Aces who have struggled somewhat as of late. 

Six games remain on Los Angeles’ regular season schedule. One of those is against Connecticut again and another of those is vs. the New York Liberty, who appear to be playing their best basketball with the playoffs looming. 

This season is unlikely to have a Hollywood ending for the Sparks, but the team appears to be taking strides to, at the very least, rewrite the script where it calls for a more pleasant ending than what was the case during the Fisher years.