Finding A Playoff Spark

Eric Rodas
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The 2020 WNBA Playoffs have now finally reached the “wubble” at the IMG Academy in Bradenton Florida and the Los Angeles Sparks have secured the third place in the WNBA standings moving forward.

After enjoying a nine game winning streak, the Sparks seemed to have stumbled into the Playoffs, dropping the last two games versus the Washington Mystics and the Las Vegas Aces. Needless to say there are always aspects of a team’s play that can use some minor adjustments that become much more apparent in their losses than in their victories. Here are some of the habits the Sparks have displayed: 

L.A.’s defense has been the cornerstone of their success this season, with an emphasis on ball pressure and aggressive rotations. However, they have shown a propensity to be picked apart by offensive execution via sound ball movement and crafty action off of the ball. This is typically how high level veteran teams expose pressure defenders, utilizing their opponents very own principles against them.

The most effective adjustment with regard to this style of offensive play is to fall back and pressure passing lanes while forcing cutters down and away from the ball. Turning your opponents into one on one jump shooters allows you to get a better rebounding position while allowing you to conserve a little more energy for your offensive attempts.

While Los Angeles’ offense has been very dynamic, it has also stalled with some very telling low scoring periods. Reviewing the game’s shooting chart you can see that the Sparks tend to become a jump shooting team relying more on perimeter play as opposed to scoring in the paint. Now when they’re shooting well it doesn’t seem to be an issue but when they go cold from outside, there doesn’t seem to be any other solution to this dilemma aside from keep shooting.

During these shooting droughts, there is an ongoing pattern with their offensive outputs. Not only do they become jump shooters but they become very one-on-one oriented dribble shooters, expending a tremendous amount of energy in order to take a highly contested shot. This becomes very taxing for a team that plays pressure defense, not to mention that they are not taking advantage of their offensive assets.

They would benefit tremendously with better team oriented offensive execution with a focus on posting up Candace Parker, Neka Ogumike and Britney Sykes. This style of play should lead to more scoring in the paint by way of strong post presence that will draw double teams, in turn creating openings in the key for cutters towards the basket. That should lead to better uncontested shots from the perimeter.

Rebounding is also another point of interest for L.A.. Although Parker is averaging about ten rebounds per game, she needs more support on the boards from Sykes and Ogwumike. The Sparks are only 11th in the league scoring off of second chance points and only eighth in the league in rebounding. This has been the difference in some of their losses and more evident in their losses to the Aces (38 to 29) and the Seattle Storm (30 to 25), who sit at the top of the league standings and are also the only two teams that have beaten L.A. twice.

Los Angeles has proven to be a very credible threat with regards to winning another WNBA championship, as they have a 98.8 defensive rating, third best in the league, while also being first in the league scoring 19 points per game off of their opponent’s turnovers. L.A. is also fifth in the league when it comes to points in the paint, lending to further evidence of the benefit of a post up game.

Veteran play is all about efficiency and this is especially more apparent in the Playoffs.

Eric Rodas

Los Angeles, California

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