Sparks’ ‘home opener tour’ ends with loss to Sun

View Original Notice ? Sparks’ ‘home opener tour’ ends with loss to Sun

  • Sparks guard Jordin Canada splits the defense of Connecticut Sun...

    Sparks guard Jordin Canada splits the defense of Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas, left, and forward Jonquel Jones during Saturday’s game in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike (30) shoots while defended by Connecticut...

    Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike (30) shoots while defended by Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones (35) during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike (30) pressures Connecticut Sun center Brionna...

    Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike (30) pressures Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones (42) during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller argues a call with official...

    Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller argues a call with official Matt Kallio during the team’s WNBA basketball game against the Sparks on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun guard Natisha Hiedeman (2) celebrates a 3-point basket...

    Connecticut Sun guard Natisha Hiedeman (2) celebrates a 3-point basket against the Sparks during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones (35) beats Sparks center Liz...

    Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones (35) beats Sparks center Liz Cambage (1) to a rebound during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike (30) loses the ball as she...

    Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike (30) loses the ball as she is fouled by Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Sparks head coach Derek Fisher argues a call during play...

    Sparks head coach Derek Fisher argues a call during play against the Connecticut Sun during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike (30) shoots as she is fouled...

    Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike (30) shoots as she is fouled by Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones (42) during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Sparks center Liz Cambage (1) scores over Connecticut Sun center...

    Sparks center Liz Cambage (1) scores over Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones (42) during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones, right, battles Sparks forward Nneka...

    Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones, right, battles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, left, for the ball during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones (35) fends off Sparks forward...

    Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones (35) fends off Sparks forward Jasmine Walker, left, and guard Jordin Canada (21) during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Sparks forward Chiney Owgumika (13) shoots around Connecticut Sun center...

    Sparks forward Chiney Owgumika (13) shoots around Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones (42) during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington, foreground, scores around Sparks forward...

    Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington, foreground, scores around Sparks forward Jasmine Walker during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones, right, and Sparks center Liz...

    Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones, right, and Sparks center Liz Cambage, left, battle for the ball during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington (21) pleads her case with...

    Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington (21) pleads her case with an official during play against the Sparks during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington, left, fouls Sparks guard Lexie...

    Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington, left, fouls Sparks guard Lexie Brown (4) as Suns forward Alyssa Thomas (25) defends during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas (5) drives between Sparks guard...

    Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas (5) drives between Sparks guard Chennedy Carter, left, and guard Brittney Sykes (15) during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington (21) scores between Sparks forward...

    Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington (21) scores between Sparks forward Jasmine Walker and guard Jordin Canada (21) during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington, left, pressures Sparks guard Brittney...

    Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington, left, pressures Sparks guard Brittney Sykes, right, during Saturday’s game in Uncasville, Conn. The Sparks’ four-game, season-opening road trip ended with a 77-60 loss. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, right, fouls Connecticut Sun center Brionna...

    Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, right, fouls Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones (42) on the baseline during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington (21) is fouled as Sparks...

    Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington (21) is fouled as Sparks guard Jordin Canada, left, and guard Brittney Sykes defend during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun guard Nia Clouden (11) and center Brionna Jones...

    Connecticut Sun guard Nia Clouden (11) and center Brionna Jones pressure Sparks guard Amy Atwell (25) during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones (42) steals the ball from...

    Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones (42) steals the ball from Sparks guard Jordin Canada (21) during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington (21) scores between Sparks forwards...

    Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington (21) scores between Sparks forwards Jasmine Walker, right, and Nneka Ogwumike, back left, during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

  • Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) celebrates a score against...

    Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) celebrates a score against the Sparks during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

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The new-look Sparks nearly ground out a comeback on Saturday. But the well-rested, well-acquainted Connecticut Sun snuffed out L.A.’s rally with a late-fourth-quarter flurry that sent the road-weary Sparks back to L.A. with 77-60 defeat.

With the loss at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, the final stop of the Sparks’ 11-day season-opening road trip, they split their first four games – or what Chiney Ogwumike deemed their “home opener tour” in which her team played the villain in for every opponent’s first home game.

“It’s exciting for the home team and a challenge for us – in a good way, though,” Chiney Ogwumike said on Zoom. “Because we are tested to the max out of the gate.”

In the Sun’s case, the Sparks gave the crowd of 5,624 a short-lived scare by erasing much of a 24-point halftime deficit by clamping down defensively in the third quarter. They outscored Connecticut 19-8 in the 10-minute period, working hard to reel in an opponent that hadn’t played since losing its season opener in New York a week prior.

L.A. trimmed the Sun’s lead to as little as nine – 67-58 – with 4:18 remaining before the Sun regained control after Brittney Sykes was called for a Flagrant 1 foul on a block attempt which gave DiJonai Carrington two free throws.

Then Brionna Jones’ steal and layup made it 73-58 and then two consecutive baskets by Alyssa Thomas extended the lead to 77-58 with 2:23 left.

Thomas led the Sun (1-1) with 23 points and 11 rebounds and reigning WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones added 16 and 12 boards as Connecticut outrebounded the Sparks 45-21, including 19-8 on the offensive glass.

“We have to make the commitment of getting after the basketball,” Coach Derek Fisher said of the costly rebounding disparity. “That’s something that each player has to decide; we have to have that mindset that once the shot goes up its a 50-50 ball, and we have to get to it.”

The Sparks got 12 points apiece from Nneka Ogwumike and Jordin Canada. They also got 10 points from Liz Cambage, who got into foul trouble and was limited to 20 minutes of action, but got the Sparks within striking distance, 61-50, on a jumper with 8:05 remaining.

Nneka Ogwumike drew a foul on Jones that sent her to the bench and Ogwumike to the line with 6:41 left and, after she knocked down both free throws, the Sparks trailed 64-52.

Nneka Ogumike’s steal and drop off to Cambage for a layup made it 67-54, and when Canada converted a nifty up-and-under layup and then a runner, she cut the lead to single-digits.

That’s as close as the Sparks could cut it.

The Sparks return for their home opener on Tuesday night at Crypto.com Arena, where they’ll host the Minnesota Lynx.

“To be back home to actually have the crowd on our side? Our people? Our family?” asked Chiney Ogwumike. “Let’s just say it’s gonna be welcome.”

But then they’ll head right back out on the road for another two games, in Seattle and then Las Vegas. Eight of the Sparks’ first 10 games are on the road.

After slow starts in their first three games, the Sparks came into Saturday’s contest prioritizing a better start. But that didn’t come to pass.

Fisher called a timeout with 7:54 to play in the first quarter and his side trailing 7-0 after missing all five of its shot and turning over the ball twice.

The deficit only deepened. Connecticut went into halftime leading 49-25. At that point, no player had more than six points in the first half for the Sparks, who shot 7 for 30 before the break.

Conversely, Connecticut’s Thomas or Jones both went into halftime with 16 points apiece, having shot a combined 12 for 17 from the floor.

Fisher said he and his fellow coaches would dig into the video to try to spot the causes of the Sparks’ so-far slow-starting ways, though he had one thought before investigating: “Really, it’s your defense and your mental and physical toughness on the road that you have to establish right from the start. That the opponent knows they’re gonna have to beat you tonight.”

Against Connecticut, the Sparks sent that message. But they waited until the third quarter to do it.

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