WNBA Sparks vs. Mystics: L.A. is still learning how to close games

The Sparks have actually played 5 house video games this season, and 4 of them have actually been one-possession video games in the last minute. Despite holding second-half double-digit leads in the 3 of those contests (versus the Mercury, Wings, and Mystics), L.A. has actually enabled each of those groups an opportunity to connect or take the lead in the video game’s subsiding minutes.

The troubling pattern raised its awful head when again Tuesday versus Washington, as the Sparks distributed the majority of a 14-point lead in in the last 5 minutes, and Natasha Cloud was at the line for 3 totally free tosses to connect the video game with 2.5 seconds to play. Cloud missed out on the 2nd — similar to Arike Ogunbowale a couple of weeks prior — as L.A. left, however the ending was much nervier than it must have been.

“I thought in the last three minutes, we really played some solid defense down the stretch of the shot clock, and then all of a sudden they hit a three and there’s a foul, and they kinda get themselves back in it,” head coach Fred Williams stated postgame. “But the main point for us is closing our video games, and we closed this one out and developed a W.

“I thought what hurt us was that we didn’t really close close enough on the three-point shots and that’s what got them back in it. Cloud hit a couple in there to make it happen for them and then all of a sudden, you got a two-point ball game or tie game, so I’m really proud that we hung in there, and it was a game experience for the young ladies.”

During pregame, Fred Williams highlighted Natasha Cloud as the gamer the Sparks would need to consist of. That showed prescient in the 4th.
Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE through Getty Images

Surrendering 31 points in the 4th quarter shined a light on the Sparks’ protective battles late. And that was absolutely part of the issue — going under on Cloud and losing Alysha Clark off an offending rebound scramble are untenable mistakes. But there were likewise issues on offense, as bad procedure from L.A. caused turnovers, and the Mystics taking advantage of those free gifts.

Through 3 quarters, the Sparks looked actually fluid on offense, the cleanest given that the shift from Derek Fisher to Williams. The choice to primarily stagger Brittney Sykes and Jordin Canada assisted take full advantage of the group’s spacing, with a minimum of among Kristi Toliver, Lexie Brown, and Katie Lou Samuelson on the court at all times, and 2 for a lot of minutes. Strong flooring balance on offense implied that L.A. was much better prepared in shift defense, and Washington just had 4 fast-break points in the very first thirty minutes.

In the 4th, possibly since Brown was restricted with a sprained ankle, the Sparks ran more defense-first lineups that had actually restricted to no spacing, particularly with Sykes and Canada together in the backcourt. Those 2 shared the court for 3:35, throughout which the Sparks were outscored by 9. In an associated note, the group had 6 turnovers in the duration that caused 13 Mystics points. The excellent procedure that L.A. had actually shown previously in the video game was no place to be discovered.

After Mike Thibault and Cloud were examined technicals that enabled the Sparks to extend their cause 14, here’s how the subsequent offending ownerships for L.A. went:

  • bad pass from Canada to the roller Olivia Nelson-Ododa
  • Nelson-Ododa devotes an offending nasty publishing up (to be reasonable, this call is suspect)
  • Sykes pull-up jumper as Liz Cambage screens away her protector
  • Cambage offending nasty while cleaning out Shakira Austin

Notice a gamer missing out on from any of those offending series? How about All-Star starter Nneka Ogwumike, who just completed the video game 9-of-13 from the field? The next 3 ownerships all likewise omitted Ogwumike, as Canada had the ball in her hands each time, consisting of a mysterious seclusion versus Alysha Clark. As previous Seattle Storm colleagues, Canada ought to actually understand much better.

Interestingly, despite the fact that L.A. was playing its finest protective backcourt, the defense still had a hard time to get stops. And with the Sparks not able to require turnovers, they couldn’t enter into the open court for simple shots, where they had actually stood out previously.

The excellent news is that L.A. had actually developed enough of a cushion early to endure the late Washington run. The Sparks depth showed remarkable — Chiney Ogwumike and Canada each had double-digit scoring efforts off the bench, and Nelson-Ododa even cracked in 6. Starting Sykes assisted limitation Cloud and Ariel Atkins early (the set had just 17 points prior to the 4th), and the house group was active in the passing lanes throughout, understanding that the Mystics would need to count on ball motion without their seclusion center Elena Delle Donne.

L.A. was likewise able to rely on Nneka Ogwumike for the most significant plays of the video game. The captain made herself offered when the Sparks required to incoming the ball up one with 10 seconds to play, and after that she made both totally free tosses. When Washington required an offending rebound to connect the video game on Cloud’s last totally free toss, Ogwumike protected ownership and ended the resurgence.

As the remainder of the group finds out how to acquit itself in clutch scenarios, Ogwumike currently understands how to do the job. Relying on her more regularly might assist the Sparks with a few of their late-game execution troubles.

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