Back to backs tough for Sparks
Back to backs have always been a part of the WNBA and they probably will be for a while to come, as we fit 34 games into a 3 1/2- month season. As I thought about the story of the Sparks game tonight against the Chicago Sky, all I kept thinking was, "Back to backs are tough." This was a winnable game for us. One interesting statistic from this game was that though both teams had an identical number of offensive possessions (74 each), we had 18 more shot attempts in the game than the Sky (attempting 74 shots to their 56.) We kept our turnovers in check with only 14, equaling our 14 assists and we outrebounded the Sky 38 to 30 (and killed them on the offensive glass with 17 to their 7.) But we just were inefficient. We were tired. Back to backs are tough.
Long road stands are tough too. Night after night, the Sparks have played in hostile arenas. They have had to listen to "Beat LA" and booing and stomping when they are on the free throw line. The best they can hope for is to silence a crowd with some great passing or a fancy shot or block, but more often they are on the receiving end of catcalls and boos, while the home team can feed off the cheering and chanting.
None of this is meant as excuses, of course. This is professional sports, the highest level of the game, where if you come in tired or unfocused, you go home with a loss. But I got up at 4:00 this morning after merely watching last night's game in Minnesota and thought, "Wow, that came early." I sat on a plane in coach for the early morning flight to Chicago and thought, "Wow, this is not the most comfortable way to start a day." I spent time working in my hotel room during the afternoon wondering, "If I was traveling with my 3 month old baby, like Candace, or nursing nagging injuries, like Delisha or Tina, or thinking about making my professional debut in the town where I played high school ball, like Lindsay, would I have the focus to prepare effectively for another game in a few hours?"
The team played hard in the first quarter, in front of the second-largest crowd in Sky history. They built up a small lead, committing one turnover against six assists. But with a back-to-back, you have to play really strong to start because it is hard to dig out of a hole in the fourth quarter when your legs are gone, that 4 a.m. wake-up call is catching up to you and you just want it all to be over. Letting the Sky outscore us by 10 in the second quarter was the final nail in our coffin. The rest of the game was just trading baskets and we could never get any traction, losing 75-63.
The Sky gave us our chances, but we could never capitalize on them. We shot short all night, especially right under the baskets--shots that should be money. But shot after shot clanged off the front of the rim. We were tired and we wanted to go home. We had a chance to win it, but we just couldn't take advantage of it. Back to backs are tough. And we still have one game left in this road stand. Half of our players will stay in Chicago tomorrow, making appearances and doing community events here before meeting up with the rest of the team on Friday in Sacramento, to prepare for our game there Saturday. Once we win there, it is finally home sweet home for a nice long homestand. Five games in a row where there will be no waiting at airports, no sitting in coach, no practicing in foreign gyms, no listening to other teams' fans cheering loudly.
Back to backs are rough. Long road trips are tough. We have one more chance to win a game on the road and then we'll finally be home.
Photo: Candace Parker. Photo credit: Elaine Thompson / Associated Press.