Monday, September 1, 2008

Sparks 82, Lynx 58

This was a close game throughout the first half, but Los Angeles outscored Minnesota 45-21 in the second half.

Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie were the stars here, combining for 44 points, 24 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, 10 blocks, and 5 turnovers in a combined 61 minutes of play. Candace Parker again looked best when getting defensive rebounds and immediately getting out in transition, much like what Lamar Odom is capable of in the men's game. Lisa Leslie was hassled into early turnovers because the Lynx were immediately collapsing 3 and 4 players on her whenever she touched the ball, but the Sparks responded (once again) by scoring more quickly and putting the ball in the hands of Parker on the perimeter. Another solution, longer term, might be to play Sidney Spencer more at one of the guard spots, with her size (6'3") and shooting ability (40% from 3 for the year), she would force her defender to stay with her at the three-point line, giving Leslie more room to work down low. The untold story, though, was solid guard play from Shannon Bobbitt and Temeka Johnson. Bobbitt did a great job of pushing the pace as often as possible -- if she can develop some scoring ability she'll be a wonderful starter. As it is, she doesn't have a very strong jumpshot, and she is pretty creative in the paint but because of her size her penetration often doesn't lead to scoring opportunities for herself. Bobbitt also contributed some pesky defense at the perimeter, often forcing Lynx guards directly into Lisa Leslie, who used the opportunities to accumulate 8 blocks on the night. Bobbitt is probably the Sparks' best player at using ball-screens and splitting double teams -- hopefully by next season she can change her shot to be more consistent and have a quicker release. Temeka Johnson, meanwhile, has a better shot and also pushes the pace but was able to contribute in the half-court as well. She doesn't zoom down the floor quite as quickly as Bobbitt, but she's controlled and makes good decisions (if Bobbitt is kind of like T.J. Ford here, then Johnson is closer to being Jose Calderon. It's sort of a poor analogy, but it's close . . .). Johnson ended up with 6 points and 6 assists in 19 minutes.

The Sparks played pretty suffocating defense, particularly in the second half, and won the game because of blocked shots (Leslie) and defensive rebounding (Parker). They held Minnesota to just 74.4 points per 100 possessions, and harassed them into 33.6% eFG%.

The Sparks are looking really strong going into the playoffs, but their upcoming matchup in San Antonio (this Friday) is huge, and should give an indication as to how serious of a contender they are.

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