Over the course of a long WNBA season, unless you are the Minnesota Lynx, teams will play some masterpieces and other games that resemble finger paintings. Lately, Lynx games have all been master works.
For example, on Sunday against Atlanta at the Mohegan Sun Arena, the Connecticut Sun shot 61.7 percent from the floor, the second-best shooting percentage in team history, making 37 field goals. They couldn’t miss, winning easily by 19 points.
But on Tuesday, in the same building, the Sun clanked away, shooting 33.3 percent (28-of-84) and 5-of-20 from three. They blew a 10-point first half lead to the Los Angeles Sparks. They couldn’t hit a tree with a power saw, losing 87-81.
“I don’t like losing any game, but you know it’s a game where we had control and we had the lead, and you know, it disappeared in a hurry,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said. “We couldn’t catch it, we fumbled it a little bit, I don’t know if the length [the height of the Sparks] bothered us, but we were just in a hurry. They did a good job with their zone change and their momentum of the game. But we got it back. We got the lead back and then we just couldn’t sustain it. Credit them.”
Still, the Sun are not in bad shape (6-2) as they head into Friday’s game at the casino against the New York Liberty. The Sun opened the season with two straight victories over New York and getting another would be a nice bonus as Connecticut ends a stretch of seven home games in their first nine.
After losing their first five games, the Liberty (3-6) have won three of four.
The biggest problem for the Sun against the Sparks really wasn’t their inability to make baskets. It was their inability to keep Candace Parker from making them. Parker, the former Tennessee All-American, WNBA MVP and 2012 Olympian, was brilliant in all phases. She scored 33 points, with 16 rebounds, five blocked shots and eight assists.
“We talked about how this [game] is measuring stick [for the Sparks],” said Parker. “We had played only one team with a winning record so far, Minnesota, and we lost to them. It was about going out on the road and finding a way to win. Connecticut is a great team … Everybody had a moment when they came in and did something positive for the team.”
That included rookie Nneka Ogwumike, the former Stanford All-American, who the Sparks took with the first pick of the 2012 draft. She was every bit as impressive as Parker, just in an abbreviated role. Ogwumike played just over 22 minutes, but was 7-of-7 from the field for 18 points.
The Parker-Ogwumike duo, both former collegiate superstars, will give the Sparks (7-1) a tremendous foundation on which to build over the next few years.
“Playing with someone like Candace is a blessing, and I am very happy that I am on this team,” Ogwumike said. “I am understanding how to play with Candace now, and I look up to her, and she treats me like I’m her little sister. She is great and I could not ask for anyone better to play with.”
Said Parker: “I keep telling her every time she keeps making a big play that I love her. She is the type of player that when I miss a shot, I know she is going get the rebound, so I am more comfortable taking those shots and I know when she gets the ball it’s going to be a good play. She has done a good job her rookie year, she has grown up and I am very proud of her.”
Even without the injured Nicky Anosike (knee) and Ebony Hoffman (ankle), the Sparks frontline controlled the Sun, both defensively and off the boards. The Sparks out-rebounded Connecticut, 47-39. And Parker took the fizz out of Sun center Tina Charles, who on Sunday set the WNBA record for the fastest to 50 double-doubles (75 games) in her career.
Charles picked up No. 51 – setting a Sun franchise record that took Taj McWilliams-Franklin 241 games – with 19 points and 13 rebounds. But Charles was 8-of-26.
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