|Numbers don"t add up for Fever against Sparks|
Sometimes, the stats just don't lie.
Los Angeles has had an up-and-down season, while Indiana's has mostly been down. The one bright spot for the 2-21 Fever was a win over defending champion Minnesota. On Thursday, they get a chance to knock off the Sparks, the other team involved in the past two WNBA titles, when the two collide at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
But defeating the Sparks (14-9) is going to be a tall order for the Fever.
Just look at the stats.
While the Sparks' offense averages a pedestrian 79.4 points per game, the Fever are dead last at 75.2. Los Angeles is much more efficient, connecting on 46.3 percent of its field-goal attempts, including 35.4 percent of their shots beyond the arc.
Indiana shoots a league-worst 40.9 percent from the field and only 31.6 percent from 3-point range.
The Sparks, surprisingly with such a dominant front court anchored by Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker, is the worst rebounding team in the league at 30.1 boards per game.
The Sparks make up for that deficiency on defense. They allow only 77.4 points per game while the Fever give up 85.3 points per game.
The two teams played back in May in Indiana with the Sparks walking away with an 87-70 victory. Parker didn't play as she recovered from offseason back issues. Ogwumike scored 25 and got plenty of help from Odyssey Sims (17 points) and Chelsea Gray (12 points).
The Fever were held to 38.7 percent from the field and committed 14 turnovers.
In a June 19 game at Staples, the Sparks held the Fever to 55 points in a 19-point win. Only the New York Liberty have scored fewer points (54 in a loss to the Sparks on June 24) this season.
The Fever made just 30.4 percent of their field-goal attempt and only 3 of 14 from 3-point range. They also turned the ball over 17 times.
Despite their struggles, Fever head coach Pokey Chatman remains upbeat.
"We're not dealing with the reloading of things," Chatman said. "We just have to continue to fight through the adversity and make sure we stay connected to the message and trust the process. We need to have some grit and some plucky about us, and get some stuff done."
The Sparks have had their share of adversity as they prepare to face the Fever for a third and final time. Los Angeles already has lost more games this season than in the past two seasons.
But Indiana has lost five straight, their most recent loss on Wednesday on the road against the Lynx.
Candace Dupree led the Fever with 20 points. But of more importance, she became only the eighth player in league history to record 2,700 rebounds.
"People talk about moral victories, for me it's about being disciplined and what you're capable of doing," Chatman said. "At the end of the day, if five Olympians and having many All-Stars gets the best of you, I'll sleep at night."
As if the Sparks need even more of an advantage, while the Fever were on the road, Los Angeles has been resting up since a deceiving 21-point win on the road Sunday against upstart Las Vegas.
Typical of the Sparks, it was their defense that paved the way to victory.
There were 19 lead changes and the Aces were up by one with just under nine minutes when the Sparks went on an 18-3 run to win the rubber match between the two this season. The Sparks outscored the Aces 35-15 in the fourth.
"Our defense was pretty good," Sparks head coach Brian Agler said. "When you start making shots your offense looks good. ... We finished the game very strong. People don't know how difficult this league is."
Los Angeles' balance was on display and Parker took notice after nearly recording a triple-double (34 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists).
"Every game is different is terms of us being talented on our team that I think anybody can step up and have a big game," she said.
Gray did just that -- step up in a big way. She didn't miss a shot going 9-for-9 from the field.
The Sparks might just be ready to hit their stride, Parker said. And that's bad news for the rest of the contenders.
"In order for us to be considered be great, we have to play consistently," Parker said after the win in Las Vegas. "This was a great start and great game at the right direction."