If the Los Angeles Sparks plan to repeat as WNBA champions this season, consistency and, believe it or not, boxing will be the key.
As we take a look forward, there is no doubt when you think about a Los Angeles Sparks repeat the theme of consistency is but one point in the dialogue. Can Los Angeles, among other things, be consistent? If this last five game road trip is any indication, one can safely say the Sparks have caught fire.
I know, I know. Los Angeles dropped the first game to a surging Dallas Wings led by Gloria Johnsons‘ relentless play and another to a resilient New York Liberty team led by double-double Tina Charles. The Washington Mystics were at best was a mere sparring partner. But kudos to them for beating a formidable foe in the Minnesota Lynx who own the best record in the WNBA and at the end of the road trip, winning a heavy weight bout against a resurgent Chicago Sky.
It was a punch/counter punch affair, with the Sparks delivering the final blows in the second overtime. If Chicago is representative of all potential playoff teams and the recent play of L.A. is the same energy they take into playoffs, we can check consistency off the list.
Consistency is just one aspect needed for the Sparks to be undisputed champions. Teams that have defeated the Sparks this year had two things in common: experience and/or energetic guard play.
Dallas upended the defending champs twice and Chicago took them to the wire in two of three. According to Dallas News, the average age on the Wings roster is 24.5 while Chicago boasts seasoned vets in the guard spots in Courtney Vandersloot, Allison Quigley, the legend herself Cappie Poindexter as well as the emergence of Kahleah Copper. That is a lot to contend with from any standpoint.
It doesn’t mean these games aren’t winnable for the Sparks, it just means there are more barriers to overcome and strategic adjustments to be made. In a recent interview Chicago coach Amber Stocks complimented her mentor. L.A. coach Brian Agler on being one of the best in the business when it comes to making in-game adjustments. Friday’s game is proof of that.
Their ability to go the distance just may depend on their ability (in an attempt to use more boxing terms) to bob and weave… a side to side and rolling movement that are used as defense to avoid punches. And secondly to roll with and withstand the punches by fringe contenders like New York or Chicago.
Again, consistency is key. The Sparks bread and butter are the dynamic dual of Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike and their high-low game as well as the deceptive dribble penetration of Chelsey Gray. L.A. needs to continue to “Go to the Body” a boxing offensive strategy focused on attacking the mid-section.
There are no eight counts or split decisions or technical knockouts. It’s put up or shut up time in the WNBA playoffs. Although someone may need to get Ogwumike and Alana Beard a spit bucket.