Why the Sparks believe adversity could lead to playoffs

They struggled with delays and cancellations. They woke up at 3am for an early flight. The lucky ones slept until 6 am

After several nightmarish weeks of commercial flying, the fact that sparks no need to return to the airport for three weeks in the center Liz Cambage breathe a sigh of relief and joy.

“It is not enough!” Cambage said Monday night with a wide smile.

In the midst of a seven-game home stand, the Sparks can take a full break and playoff position is on the line.

Starting the season with nine of 12 games on the road, the Sparks (10–11) entered the week in ninth place, one spot out of the playoffs. They finished sixth with the Atlanta Dream after two consecutive wins over New York Liberty as well as Phoenix Mercury on Sunday and Monday to extend their winning streak to three.

“My opinion is that you can’t relax at home,” acting head coach Fred Williams Sunday said. “You must protect the home yard.”

Four of the Sparks’ next five games will be against teams currently in the playoffs, starting Thursday against Seattle, but that’s far from the toughest the team has faced this season. They’ve already made it through May.

Forward Nneka Ogwumike called the Sparks’ 11-game, 26-day stretch of season opener “the longest month of my life.”

A brutal month that included only three games at home, none of which caught Cambage’s attention. She knew it would be difficult, but in July she saw a light at the end of the tunnel: 11 games in 31 days, only two on the road, and none requiring a time zone change.

“I’m just proud that we stayed together,” Cambage said after scoring 23 points on nine rebounds in a win over the Mercury on Monday. “That first month, the teams really could have gone the other way, but we just want to be the best we can be individually and as a team.”

Start of the season with a score of 5:7, including a series of five defeats. forced change of coach. The Sparks lost three of their first four games under Williams, including an 82–59 home game against Chicago on June 23. But they’ve been successful, winning four of their last five games despite running out of hands in the backcourt. Without Britney Sykes (health and safety protocols) and Chennedy Carter (knee), as well as Christy Toliver, who injured her calf at the start of the game against New York, Lexi Brown rose to play 38 and 34 minutes in a row, scoring 22 points in total . nine three-point shots with seven interceptions.

“I’ve kind of come to terms with this role on this team,” said Brown, who recovered between back-to-back games by putting on compression boots, drinking a glass of wine and watching The Stranger. Things. “

Williams has stepped up her defense and tried to increase her offensive speed, but players attribute much of the team’s improvement to simple practice after so many hours away. The growing chemistry was evident when five players scored in consecutive double figures to open the home stand.

“I really like the communication not only between the players in the starting XI, but also with the whole team,” said Ogwumike. “People are trying to play the right game and I think that’s a sign of the team you want to play for.”

While the Sparks avoid the airport until the July 23 game in Las Vegas, Ogwumike will fly to Chicago this weekend to All-Star Game. The 32-year-old is fifth in the league in scoring with 18.8 points and second in field goal percentage (57.8%). The production earned Ogwumika her seventh All-Star award and her first starting role, but her teammates don’t want the recognition to stop there.

“[I don’t know] if anyone said that, but Nneka should be in the MVP conversations.” – Brown tweeted after Sunday’s victory in which Ogwumike scored 22 points on nine out of 13 shooting.

Ogwumike, who didn’t see the tweet, was appreciative of her teammate’s support but downplayed any MVP discussion.

“I want a ring,” Ogwumike said softly.

“We’re going to get both,” Brown added.