With two home games this week, Sparks playing catchup – Orange County Register

LOS ANGELES – Unfortunately for the Sparks, Kristi Toliver’s season opener wasn’t their season opener.

Toliver – who spent the NBA season on the Dallas Mavericks’ coaching staff, helping head coach Jason Kidd steer Luka Doncic and crew to the Western Conference finals – clocked into her summertime job Sunday and and played 15 minutes in her first day back on the court.

She had three points, three assists and took some strides toward game shape in the Sparks’ 92-82 loss: “Still got a long way to go,” she said. “Not in panic mode or anything like that.”

But there isn’t actually such a long way to go: Entering their first homestand this season – a two-game set against Washington (Tuesday) and Chicago (Thursday) – the Sparks are 14 games into their 36-game season.

That’s almost 40% of the way through. And after losing three consecutive games, including the first two games of Fred Williams’ tenure as interim head coach, they’re 5-9 and in 10th place.

So there’s lot of catching up to do – in the WNBA standings and, also, on the court.

They gave up 35 fast-break points Sunday, and they’re allowing a league-high 14.4 fast-break points per game, which is also more than any Sparks team in franchise history. What’s striking is that last season’s squad led the league in transition defense, allowing only 6.3 fastbreak points, and in 2020 they permitted even fewer: 6.1

It’s not a brain-teasing head-scratcher as to why, Nneka Ogwumike said, offering a swift, stark diagnosis during a postgame video conference with reporters Sunday.

“There are times when I don’t know if we’re very aware of when the shot is going up for us to know to get back,” said Ogwumike, who is one of four players who remain from the 2021 roster that defended admirably but missed the playoffs for just the fifth time in franchise history.

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