Los Angeles Sparks Hit Post-Olympic Dip

The Los Angeles Sparks have lost both of their games since play resumed.

The Los Angeles Sparks were the No. 1 team in the WNBA heading into the Olympic break. They sat there for weeks as the games were played at the 2016 Rio Olympics, games that saw the USA win gold. However, the Sparks, following back-to-back losses in the last few days, have now lost their grip on top spot.

On Friday the Sparks lost to Seattle, a result that the Storm desperately needed in order to improve their playoff chances. Then on Sunday Los Angeles lost to Phoenix, another team on the playoff bubble. What has resulted is a 21-5 record and a mini-slide down to second place behind the Minnesota Lynx.

Diana Taurasi played big for the Mercury in the Sunday game. The guard had 26 points to lead all scorers while LA’s Nneka Ogwumike played a little below average for her standards, scoring just 15 points.

The Mercury, despite a 12-14 record on the season, are a dangerous team as the regular season winds down. Things didn’t start out well for this club, but the season can be forgiving due to how many teams make the playoffs. If Taurasi stays hot then the Mercury will be a very tough team to eliminate in the weeks ahead.

For the Sparks. they are still sitting very pretty in the playoff picture. When you start the season 21-3, you earn the right to go through a bad patch without it costing you too much.

The key for the top contenders in the new WNBA playoff format is to hold one of the top-two positions in the standings: those two teams will go straight to the semifinals. The Sparks, now at 21-5, still hold a 2.5-game lead on third-placed New York. It might not look that big, but in basketball, where elite teams win a high percentage of games, a 2.5-game lead late in the season is pretty healthy.

Looking ahead at the next week the Sparks have the San Antonio Stars, the Dallas Wings, and the Indiana Fever. That should be three wins and the Sparks should create some separation between themselves and New York. However, LA’s recent losses do make them interesting to watch as it appears that the Rio break was a bad one for them.

Shane Lambert