Just the Facts, Ma’am: The Sparks used power down low and defense all over the court to spur a big third quarter and a bigger road win at Connecticut, 90-64. Nneka Ogwumike led all scorers with 24 points, adding seven rebounds. Los Angeles got their top four posts into double figures, with Jantel Lavender notching 19, Candace Parker 15, and Sandrine Gruda 12. Connecticut got 18 points and six rebounds from Chiney Ogwumike in the loss.
For the potential of noogies, fashion choices, elbows, free throws, ballhawking, and the standards of evil, join your intrepid and in need of exfoliation blogger after the jump.
The gods of transit and time were not kind to your intrepid blogger, so these notes are coming from the comfort of my armchair instead of a narrow bus seat jouncing my way down I-95.
Lost twenty bucks. I regret nothing.
Fun anthem. Irish style. Is it some kind of Irish celebration weekend that I didn’t know about or something?
My seat was broken. 🙁 Fortunately, seats 1 and 2 didn’t show up, so the three pairs of people in our row were all able to space ourselves properly and comfortably. (And then seats 7 and 8 and seats 3 and 4 left at the start of the fourth quarter. It was that kind of game.)
On the Los Angeles Sparks
Nikki Greene is very tall, and seemed to be the target of many whistles in the fourth quarter, as the officials desperately tried to equalize the foul count in a futile attempt to seem competent. She does not have good hands. With all the shooting practice that Farhiya Abdi gets in before games, I would have liked to see her hit some shots, but she just could not find her groove.
Candice Wiggins pretty much avoided shooting. The way she shot in New York, I can’t blame her, but she had several open looks that she passed up, to the point where I thought she was under orders from the bench to be more of a distributor.
Armintie Herrington was very active defensively and actually hit a clean jumper, so prepare for Ragnarok. She did a lot of signal-calling on the offensive side of the floor with the reserves, which surprised me a little, especially with Wiggins as distributor (then again, for all I know, they changed the signals while Wiggins was rehabbing, or Herrington was using sooper-sekrit signals from the Ole Miss days).
Sandrine Gruda has a really weird wind-up at the free throw line- I swear, she is the only player I’ve ever seen fade away on a free throw, and the release almost looks like a throw-in from the sideline on a soccer pitch. They almost force-fed her in the fourth quarter. I don’t know if she wanted to say “ferme ta bouche!” to her old team, or if there was some kind of challenge to get all the post players into doubles (okay, Greene was kind of a lost cause there), or if they were using her as a proxy for Parker to get the bench players used to running those plays, or what. But even at the point where teams usually start giving pity shots to the end of the bench, the ball was going to Gruda.
Lindsey Harding had a pretty spin move that led to a missed shot down low, and seemed very comfortable running point for the squad, both with the reserves and in a three-guard set with Toliver and Beard.
I gotta tell you all, Candace Parker looks like the odd woman out for the Sparks, and that’s a helluva thing to say about one of the league’s great talents. I don’t know if it’s because LA doesn’t have a strong offensive scheme, or if they were just going with the hot hands, but she looked… disinterested is perhaps too strong a word, but uninvolved in the offense and out of place in the defense.
She was the one player who didn’t fight for loose balls and who didn’t board hard. A lot of her rebounds were long ones, the kinds that guards usually pick up. She seemed to be relying more on her athleticism than her skill, especially on the defensive side. Kristi Toliver started the game taking every shot in sight, as if her lack of effectiveness in New York was an offense against the nature of reality itself. She got away with a really blatant shove on one of the Sun guards that greatly irked me, but I think I’ve figured out that I don’t like her attitude.
Alana Beard started off looking really active on defense, but spent a long time on the sideline stretching out and didn’t seem quite the same when she came back in- but then again, when she came back in, she was at the three with Toliver and Harding as the guards. Different needs.
I do not know if you have noticed this, but Nneka Ogwumike is kind of awesome. She really needs to work on her footwork, because she’s going to hurt someone someday otherwise, but other than that she is amazing and so tough. She facilitated a lot of offense for the Sparks, either by getting o-boards or by letting someone else grab the o-board.
Jantel Lavender annoys me because of her excessive physicality, but she does have nice touch around the basket, I have to give her that. I could do without the elbows, but she’s really blossomed this year as a player. Ugh. Why do I have to say nice things about a Buckeye? There are Michigan women who will do terrible things to me for that!
On the Connecticut Sun
Kelley Cain is tall. She has really weird free throws. Look, they were not the most inspiring four minutes. They did not save the world. Kelly Faris got some time early after Gilbreath-Butler got the wind knocked out of her, then got pity minutes at the end of the game. She’s scrappy, but she did little.
Renee Montgomery had the one buzzer-beater that was pretty much an unprintable word in the direction of the officials, and that was it. I don’t even remember her taking all the shots that were in the box score, but I suppose she must have.
The minute distribution was odd for Kelsey Griffin- she fell all the way to the back of the rotation in the first quarter, then came in sporatically throughout the game. Our assumption was that she was late to practice or something, but it still seemed strange.
Kayla Pedersen got a lot of the minutes that would normally fall to Griffin, and seemed more aggressive going to the basket than usual, with mixed results. (Perhaps she got inspired by the Battle of Nerd City and wished to be a worthy sidekick to Chiney. Well. Um. Yeah. About that.)
Briana Gilbreath-Butler had a ncie rebound, but otherwise looked as lost as you would expect from a recently acquired injury replacement. She’s awfully skinny- do they, like, fold her up and put her in a garment bag for road trips?
Kelsey Bone, missing chippies like that is the primary reason why Bill Laimbeer talked you down and shipped you off to Connecticut. She did not know how to handle the bigs for LA, and she kept missing lay-ups. It was very frustrating. Alex Bentley didn’t find her shot until the fourth quarter, at which point she hit something like three straight. Yes, it’s much easier when the other team is just playing a gentle man-to-man defense.
I don’t think I would have put Katie Douglas back in the game in the fourth quarter, not when she came to the scorer’s table with the radiator strapped to her back, but I’m not Anne Donovan. I’m not nearly tall enough and my suits are nicer but more wrinkled.
Chiney Ogwumike started the game hot, going shot for shot with big sis, but got worn down as the game went on. I think the pressure might have gotten to her a little, and LA adjusted their defense to cover her better, too. Alyssa Thomas had some outside shots going, but seemed to shy away from contact on the inside. I think they were thinking she could be a counter to Parker in terms of being a mismatch, but she has to hit shots for that plan to work.
More notes on the game
That third quarter three-guard set going headlong into the teeth of LA’s three bigs was a hot mess and led to LA’s big run, which never really ended. If the shots had been falling, it might have been a different story, but there was no offense from the trio of Bentley-Montgomery-Douglas, and that left Douglas defending Candace Parker, or occasionally Renee Montgomery defending Jantel Lavender, and I think we can all agree that this is a plan that will not end well for the defending team. LA seems to do a lot of weird stuff with switches, and I don’t know if that’s intentional to mess up the defense or unintentional because there’s no clear offensive set.
I get very annoyed when officials repeatedly miss elbows. And then there was that hot mess at the end of the first quarter. At 1.3 a foul was called on Armintie Herrington for making like the first domino in a domino effect, and Chiney Ogwumike took two free throws, hitting one. After the original end of the quarter, the officials decided that this had not been a shot attempt, and as it was only the Sparks’ third foul of the quarter (which, by the way, if the zebras had done their job, it wouldn’t have been), the free throws would be negated.
The crowd was wrathful… right up until Montgomery hit a long three. Of course, then the refs had to review the three, and I’m pretty sure a few people were checking to see if they could get torches and pitchforks out of bag check just in case the officials decided that the shot that was clearly before the horn was after the horn. I still can’t believe they missed the shot by Gruda to Gilbreath-Butler. I was worried something might be broken there!
Crowd started leaving in the third quarter. I think they delayed the t-shirt toss to get people to stay.
We drew the autograph section and were rewarded with Kelsey Bone and Kelley Cain. Since I was wearing my Miracle jersey, not my Lobo jersey, it was not as awkward as it could have been. Yes, for games where the Sun are not playing a team I have interest in, I wear a Miracle jersey, and because I’m always true in my fashion, it’s a Tari Phillips Miracle jersey. (For the Lynx game, I’m rocking the Kristin Folkl. Did I mention that I collect throwbacks off eBay?)
I can’t even articulate what Connecticut didn’t have today, only that they didn’t have it. I think LA’s defense, combined with the lack of offensive punch from their opponents, can do a lot to disguise their offensive woes on the perimeter. Having a couple of anchors down low helps too.