Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker has a decision to make. She can either be passive or aggressive but she can’t be both.
“I do feel as though there are games where I come out and I know I have to be aggressive and active and that’s how it is every game in the playoffs,” Parker said.
Her team will play in a single-elimination game against the Connecticut Sun on Thursday night and Parker is not ready to leave the Wubble. In her 13th WNBA season, Parker’s found success on defense, leading the league in rebounding at 9.7 per game, On offense, she is leading the Sparks in scoring at 14.7 points per game. Throughout the 22-game regular season, Parker has picked her spots and trusted her coaching staff and her teammates.
The Sparks finished third in the league standings with a 15-7 record. However, the team’s season still comes down to a win or go home game in the second round of the playoffs.
If the Sparks play up to their potential it won’t matter who they play.
The key for the Sparks against the Sun will be defense. Specifically, focusing on the difficult task of slowing down All-Stars DeWanna Bonner, Alyssa Thomas, and Jasmine Thomas.
“It doesn’t matter who we go up against, whoever I’m guarding, my job is to make it hell for them that entire night on the court if I’m guarding them,” said guard Brittney Sykes. “If they do score, they had to go through hell and hot water to get that bucket.”
Sparks Head Coach Derek Fisher shares the same zen mantra. He believes the Sparks’ best strategy against any opponent is to be the best version of themselves.
“It’s not as much about the opponent… you obviously have to prepare for your opponent, respect them, understand some of the things they would like to do and try do but I think for us, our ability to bring a level of focus and attention to detail that allows us to really play with energy, effort, passion,” said Fisher. “I think that’s always at the top of the list.”
Take Care of the Basketball
At times, Candace Parker carried the Sparks on offense. She’s found success in transition as Point Parker, running the Sparks offense as a 6’4 positionless player. Parker told Winsidr she’s focused on making the correct play. She will also have to make sure she does not get caught up in her one-on-one matchup against Alyssa Thomas.
“I think it just comes with the feel for the game honestly,” Parker said. “I think we’ve done a good job of getting to this point, in preparation of sharing the ball and I’m going to continue to make the correct play. Sometimes what I feel is correct is not going to be right but I think you have to trust, that’s the biggest thing.”
“When we take care of the basketball, we’re really good. I think we always get in trouble when we get loose with the basketball,” Fisher told Winsidr.
“I hope I’ve earned the trust of my teammates that they know I’m going to make the right play. Especially in the playoffs, this is where your best player has got to rise to the occasion and everybody has to do what they do best,” Parker added.
Ultimately, the Sparks are successful when they make it hard for the other team’s primary and secondary options to get good looks on offense. When the Sparks win, energy and effort have been their calling card.
“I think we have to get back to being able to create turnovers and get ourselves out into the open court a little bit more,” said Fisher. “I felt like that was an area, even though we finished at the top or near the top of the league overall, I don’t think that in the last week or so, we played at that level in terms of really making it hard for teams on the offensive end.”
But a single-elimination game means the loser will have to leave the Wubble. Your championship dreams deferred in a mere 40 minutes.
“I think the key to playing in any game honestly, is to find a way to have a clear mind and to be able to be fully present and just focused on that one game… but you cannot become overly anxious,” Fisher added.
If Candace Parker, Brittney Sykes, and the rest of the Sparks are “super excited about every possible moment” in this game, they will be successful. Because when energy and effort are combined with talent, you get the best version, the championship level version of the LA Sparks.