Looking to shake their season-long pattern of alternating wins and losses, the Los Angeles Sparks try to record back-to-back wins in the "wubble" for the first time Tuesday night when they face the New York Liberty.
The Sparks (4-3) have had their moments and troubles in Florida, having dealt the Minnesota Lynx one of their two losses but also failing to reach that next level consistently as their losses have come to Chicago, Seattle, and Las Vegas.
Derek Fisher's team bounced back from that loss to the Aces with perhaps their best effort since their season-opening win over Phoenix, rolling past Minnesota 97-81 on Sunday. Riquna Williams scored 21 points and Candace Parker finished one assist shy of a triple-double as Los Angeles had five players reach double figures in points.
Parker, who was limited to 22 games last year due to injury, has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts playing alongside fellow veteran Seimone Augustus ' who joined the Sparks after 13 seasons with the Lynx. The 34-year-old Parker is averaging 14.1 points and 10.3 rebounds and is one of only three players in the WNBA averaging a double-double.
"When she first came to L.A., we messaged each other," Parker explained, "and there has been so much mutual respect playing against her in Minnesota ' it's great basketball. I remember a coach saying back in the day, 'If 'Mone and Candace ever team up, it'll be special' and so far it has been."
While New York is tied with Connecticut for last in the league at 1-6, there is no denying it has played better basketball of late. The Liberty were unable to record back-to-back victories after knocking off defending champion Washington but pushed the Las Vegas Aces to the brink in a 78-76 defeat Sunday.
Amanda Zahui B. scored 20 points and Layshia Clarendon added 15 for the Liberty, who led by four with 2:07 to play but were held scoreless thereafter. Kia Nurse missed a potential game-tying jumper, and a second opportunity went unused after gaining possession via offensive rebound.
"This game is a massive net positive for us," first-year coach Walter Hopkins said. "About 95 percent of the locker room talk was us celebrating that we did all the things necessary to do to win that game.
Zahui B. has been at the center of New York's resurgence, averaging 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds the last four games while shooting 14 of 27 from 3-point range. That has helped ease some of the sting of losing No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu to a sprained ankle that continues to sideline the former Oregon star indefinitely.
Two of New York's 10 wins last year came at the expense of Los Angeles, including a 98-92 victory in which Zahui B. scored a career-high 37 points while hitting 7 of 8 from beyond the arc. Parker missed all three games last season due to a hamstring injury.