WNBA

Spark Notes: Sparks Find Identity Against Sky

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The LA Sparks picked up their first win of the season against the Chicago Sky on Friday. It wasnโ€™t a perfect game for either side, but the Sparks have plenty to take away from it. For the first time this season, the team looked like it had an identity. While theyโ€™re still going through the growing pains, here are a few things they should look to maintain throughout the season.

1. Brittney Sykes, sixth woman

The first change we saw coming last game was in the starting lineup. Arella Guirantes was inserted, and Brittney Sykes was moved to the bench unit. The change worked out beautifully.

Sykes, one of the few returning Sparks, made her presence felt from her first possession. Well-known for being a bundle of energy, she invigorated a bench unit that had desperately needed it. Her defensive activity helped the Sparks get out in transition for easy baskets. Sykes ended up playing twice as minutes as Guirantes, across multiple lineups. She was a leader, helped mesh the lineups, and led the team in +/- at +21. She is undoubtedly talented enough to be a starter for the Sparks, but the early returns on her as a sixth woman warrant trying it a few more times.

2. Zahui B-Nneka minutes

Another change we saw coming last game was the return of Amanda Zahui B. The newly-signed center had been dealing with a back injury for the first part of the season. Her impact was immediately felt.

The Sparks had been struggling against bigger teams. While the Sky were missing two key bigs (Candace Parker, Stefanie Dolson), they still had Ruthy Hebard (6’4″), Astou Ndour-Fall (6’5″) and Azurรก Stevens (6’6″). Zahui B stepped in and helped the Sparks mitigate their impact. On offense, her shooting ability provided extra spacing and pulled those bigs out of the paint, allowing the Sparks to get easier looks inside. Pairing Zahui B’s spacing beside Nneka’s efficient inside-out game could become an extra wrinkle in the Sparks’ offense. Per Basketball Reference, lineups with the two outscored the Sky by 32 points per 100 possessions. It’s a small sample size against a team that was having a bad night, but the fit is tantalizing. Whatever these Sparks look like when their at their best will likely feature Zahui B and Nneka on the court.

3. More Coffey, please

Another newly-signed Spark, Nia Coffey has a chance to carve out a big role for the team. She’s been one of the team’s most consistent players through the first three games, averaging nine points on 50% shooting from the field.

Against the Sky, Coffey’s versatility was on full display. She recorded at least one of every stat, except turnovers. Coffey can slot in at either forward spot, which is a plus for LA. She’s a career 37.8 percent shooter from three, and is shooting a scorching 60 (!) percent to start this season. Perhaps even more important than her hot start, she’s averaging a career high in three-point attempts at 3.3 per game. Defensively, Coffey has shown that she can cover multiple positions well. At 6’1″, she can help the smaller Sparks inside and out. If she continues her strong performance, Coffey could see a start or two as Derek Fisher continues to figure out what works best for his team.

About Richmond Bailey Caldwell

Die-hard Grizzlies fan since 2009. Aspiring basketball writer and coach. University of Georgia sport management alum. Perennial first team all-defense selection.

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