Keys to the Game: Los Angeles Sparks, June 14

By Ben York,
Posted: June 13, 2013

"We played great basketball," DeWanna Bonner said after the team's win in Indiana. "Rebounding, passing, shooting all the things necessary to win on the road. We did those things and got the win.

Related: PHOTOS: Mercury at Fever | COLUMN: Mercury Back on Track | COLUMN: Gilbreath's Inspiring Journey | Mercury TIX
Trying to build upon the momentum they generated after a victory against the Fever and playing just their second home game of the season, the Mercury hosts the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday, June 14 at 7:00 PM. The game will be televised on FOX Sports Arizona Plus. For a channel listing, see the chart below.

The Sparks, a prolific offensive team, currently are 2-1 and in second place in the Western Conference. Through three games, Los Angeles is second in the league in scoring averaging 85 points per game and leads the league in point differential at +11.66. Perhaps even more impressive, as a team, the Sparks shoot the ball exceedingly well at an efficient rate of 50 percent from the field.

Not surprisingly, perennial All-Star Candace Parker is off to a hot start. Parker averages 18 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and shoots 50 percent from the floor in over 31 minutes per game. New addition Lindsey Harding is proving to be one of the best off-season signings averaging 16.7 points and 7.0 assists. Kristi Toliver and Nneka Oguwmike are off to an uncharacteristically slow start, but as we saw last year, each can easily put up over 20 points on any given night.

Here are the keys to a Mercury win:

Ball Movement and Distribution

The Mercury had a season-high 20 assists in their win against the Indiana Fever to accompany a season-high 82 points.

Needless to say, those stats are a direct correlation with the newfound fluidity of the Mercury's up-tempo offense.

Perhaps even more encouraging, the Mercury still hasn't truly seemed to find their collective rhythm on that end of the floor, yet, they remain fifth in the league in scoring at 78 points per game.

Better said, the Mercury still have a lot of room to improve in terms of shooting -- both from the floor and from the 3-point line. If the game against the Fever is any indication, look for the Mercury's offense to continue improving.

Against a team like the Sparks with such a potent offense, Phoenix will need to take care of the ball and naturally get more players involved in their rediscovered run-n-gun attack.

Stopping a Sparks Run

In this writer's humble opinion, the turning point in the Fever game was in the second quarter.

The Fever was finding their rhythm on both ends of the floor and their home crowd was lifting them up. Indiana had a near double-digit lead with just three minutes before the half. In the three games prior -- all losses -- there was a moment like this that stretched their opponent's lead to a point where it became too lofty for the Mercury to catch up.

However, against the Fever, Phoenix held their composure and fought back with a 7-0 run heading into halftime to cut the Indiana lead to just one.

There's little doubt with all their firepower that the Sparks will make a similar run -- the key is how the Mercury counters Los Angeles' offensive onslaught.

Staying Hungry

Yes, the Mercury beat the Fever. After starting the season 0-3, the win was undoubtedly much-needed.

But if you look at the facts, Phoenix is 1-3, sits at fifth place in the Western Confernce and faces a Sparks team that has a positive point differential of double-digits.

Certainly, this is not the time to let off the brakes.

"D is back to D, as you saw," Mercury coach Corey Gaines told the Arizona Republic. "She got a technical and scored points, inside, outside. I'll take 25 points and one technical than 12 points and (have the team's energy) flatline any day.

"It makes all of the others get up for it, too."