Sparks split a pair of games against potential playoff foes

With the 2020 WNBA regular season winding down and playoffs just over the horizon, the Los Angeles Sparks split a pair of games over the Labor Day weekend.

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With the 2020 WNBA regular season winding down and playoffs just over the horizon, the Los Angeles Sparks split a pair of games over the Labor Day weekend against potential playoff foes.

Consistency, especially against teams with winning records, was something that plagued the Sparks early in the season. Moral victories don't always mean much, but if there's anything they can take away from Friday's 90-89 loss to the Seattle Storm, it's that they were in the game up until the very last possession.

It took a buzzer-beating three-point shot from Jewell Loyd with 0.8 seconds left, that was well-contested by Brittney Sykes, to put them away. It was a game in which they matched the Storm each possession, a much better performance than their previous encounter on Aug. 1 when the Sparks fell behind by double-digits and didn't have enough to complete a comeback.

After the Seattle loss, Candace Parker explained the importance of putting it past them while being able to see the positive in competing with Seattle to the very end.

"I do take solace in that, and I do believe in is closing, especially on the offensive end," Parker said. "We don't have enough time to dwellโ€ฆ We're still fighting for a good seed, a top-two seedโ€ฆ I think the motivation is there, and as crazy as it is, we still control our own destiny."

Following the loss to the Storm, the Sparks had a shot at another good team in the Chicago Sky, a team that they had previously lost to back on July 28 when the Sky used a big second half, outscoring the Sparks 56-42, to pull out the win.

This time, it was the Sparks who used a strong effort after halftime to come out with an 86-80 victory. They held the Sky to only 10 points in the fourth quarter and were able to corral Allie Quigley who had 13 points in the opening quarter. Quigley shot 0-6 from the field and was held scoreless in the fourth.

Parker turned in another MVP-level performance with 24 points on 10-12 shooting, 15 rebounds, and two blocked shots while playing the entire second half. She hit a clutch shot in the key down the stretch and buried two free-throws to ice the win.

She's remained healthy this season and has credited the preseason work she put in with her play this season.

"I really feel like this year, in terms of condition, I really made a concerted effort during the quarantineโ€ฆ really getting cardio and take care of my body," Parker said. "We've had some bumps and bruises and things like that. I just really try to take care of my body so I can play minutes or play the second half if they need me to."

Also contributing in a big way to the win was Chelsea Gray who finished with 20 points, seven assists, and six rebounds. She was a steady presence all game and she took advantage of the midrange looks she was getting from the Sky's defense.

The mid-range jump shot is an offensive weapon that she's made sure to work on and have in her arsenal.

"It's a tough shot to guard, especially for somebody who can be real shifty and change their speed a little bit," Gray said. "I take pride in the pull-up game. It's harder to guard if you get too close, have an explosive dribble and you think I'm going to hole, to just rise up over the defense. It's just working on that, to be able to do that in different directions.

On the injury front, although the team did welcome back Nneka Ogwumike who had missed the previous couple of games with back issues, they lost both Sydney Wiese and Brittney Sykes during the game. Wiese hurt her right foot in the first quarter and did not return while Sykes was kneed in the stomach in the fourth and also did not return. Evaluations are forthcoming.