View Original Notice ? Sparks’ 5th straight loss is a rout in Las Vegas

The new-look Sparks continued to experience the growing pains that have hounded them so far this season, taking one on the chin on Monday night in Las Vegas, where they were pummeled by the Aces, 104-76.

In Liz Cambage’s first meeting against her former team, Las Vegas greeted the veteran center and her new team by tying a WNBA record with 18 3-pointers in 40 minutes of action. The Aces also set a franchise scoring record for a single quarter by jumping out to a 39-19 lead after the first 10 minutes.

That buffer grew to as large as 36 points as the Sparks’ fifth consecutive loss also was the Aces’ fifth consecutive victory.

Prior to tipoff at Michelob ULTRA Arena, Sparks coach Derek Fisher credited Becky Hammon, the Aces’ new head coach, for bestowing a sense of offensive freedom in Las Vegas, where her players have picked up the pace of play and their volume of 3-point attempts – philosophies aligned with the type of play currently in style in the NBA.

It seems to be working: Of the four 100-or-more point totals in the WNBA this season, Las Vegas (7-1) has three of them.

With Hammon and Natalie Nakase, a couple of veteran NBA assistant coaches for the Spurs and Clippers, respectively, calling the shots from the Aces bench in their game-day hooded jackets, the Aces opened the game Monday by hitting 11 of their first 12 3-point attempts. They finished 18 for 38 from behind the arc.

“How many 3s did they make?” Sparks guard Jordin Canada asked postgame. “Yeah, 18 3s. That’s exactly what it felt like.

“I mean, we tried to do the best we could, trying to run them off the 3-point line, I think we kind of got out of rotations defensively which allowed them to make wide-open 3s. But you know, when a team is on, they’re on. And tonight Vegas was on.”

Las Vegas also improved its franchise record for points in a quarter for the second consecutive game, after scoring 38 in the third quarter of its 100-80 victory over Phoenix on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Sparks are still searching for a winning formula.

“There’s something I’m not doing to make sure we’re prepared to play and can sustain the energy and effort for longer, that’s on me,” Fisher said after the loss, via Zoom. “So we gotta figure it out somehow and it starts with me, so we’ll keep working at it until we do.”

Playing its sixth road game in seven games this season, L.A. (2-5) grabbed a short-lived 4-0 advantage. But then eight quick points by A’ja Wilson – including the Aces’ first two 3-pointers, more than the 2020 WNBA MVP had all of last season – made it 8-4.

And then the Aces blew open a 16-16 game with a 23-3 run in the final 4:37 of the first quarter.

“We can’t let go of the rope that much,” Fisher said.

Las Vegas came into Monday’s game averaging a league-best 25 points per first quarter, when it was outscoring opponents by 5.1 points. The Sparks, meanwhile, were averaging just 17.5 points in first-quarter play, when they were getting outscored by a league-worst 5.8 points.

That trend continued – in most exaggerated fashion – in Monday’s game, the only one on the WNBA docket.

Cambage quickly drew two fouls and finished with 10 points, four rebounds and three blocked shots in 22 minutes in her first game against her former team.

Chennedy Carter led L.A. with 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting 13 minutes off the bench. Jordin Canada chipped in with 11 points and a season-high nine assists.

“We’re gonna figure it out,” Canada promised. “A lot of teams in past recent years that start off slow like this and then they wind up making a run in the playoffs or toward the end of the season, we understand that this is still early … Everybody (on the Sparks) understands this is a team that’s never played together.

“I feel like a lot of people are comparing us to Connecticut and Washington and Vegas, who have a core group who’ve been together for a certain amount of years. When you have the chemistry it’s easy to come out hot and have a great start. For us, we’re still trying to work through some things.”

The Sparks were also short-handed, playing without reserve forward Chiney Ogwumike, who missed her second consecutive game with a knee contusion, and Kristi Toliver, who is still working her other job on the sideline as an assistant coach for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, who are in a 3-0 hole in their Western Conference finals series against Golden State.

Five Aces finished in double figures, led by Wilson with 24 points. Jackie Young added 19 points and nine rebounds. Kelsey Plum had 17 points and eight assists and former Sparks point guard Chelsea Gray finished with 14 points and five assists hours after she signed a multi-year extension with the Aces, with whom she’d signed initially as a free agent last season.

The Sparks return to Crytpo.com Arena on Wednesday night for a game against Phoenix, just their second home game this season.