Sure, some luster was taken off the Mercury-Sparks game because of the absence of Candace Parker. All day long Thursday, we were looking forward to this game, because how could it go wrong?
Maybe the Mercury play some games that are not entertaining, but I never seem to see them. When those who are big college women’s hoops fans tell me they just “can’t get into” the WNBA, I usually say, “Really? Have you watched Phoenix?”
Which is not to say there aren’t other fun teams to watch – in fact, this season I’d say there are plenty of them. It’s just that the Mercury offers a combination of both dazzling individual skills and teamwork that I think anybody who enjoys basketball would find pretty irresistible.
Unless … of course, you are fan of a team playing the Merc, in which case you might find Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter and friends to be just irritatingly successful this season.
That continued Thursday night with Phoenix winning 98-90 at the Staples Center, and indeed, this game did not go wrong from the standpoint of being fun to watch. However, without CP3, we all knew it was missing a vital ingredient.
She was out of action for “personal reasons,” which most everyone assumes meant her 3-month-old baby daughter was ill, since Parker had mentioned that on Twitter.
With no CP3, and Delisha Milton-Jones in early foul trouble, the Sparks were not what they needed to be on the boards. And Phoenix took advantage of that, 42-30.
CP3 wasn’t the only Sparks player out; point guard Kristi Harrower missed this game and will be out two more because she went back to Australia for her grandmother’s funeral.
So that meant the Sparks had just nine players available. And four of them – the quartet that came off the bench – for the most part couldn’t shoot. Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, Shannon Bobbitt, Marie Ferdinand-Harris and Vanessa Hayden were a combined 4 of 17 from the field – with three of those makes by Wisdom-Hylton.
Thus, it was really pretty much up to the LA starters to carry the load. The Sparks got off to a strong start – up 15 after the first quarter – and then still gave the Merc a run for its money despite struggling in the second and third quarters.
It goes without saying that LA can’t make up for Parker’s absence; I probably don’t need to explain just how much she impacts a game. But despite the fact that Harrower plays just over 18 minutes a game, LA needs her, too. She’s been steady and dependable enough that even if her numbers don’t jump out at you after a game – and they almost never do – you still can be assured she did have an affect.
The loss ended LA’s six-game winning streak. And the Mercury can feel good about not just cooling the Sparks, but doing it in LA. Still, Phoenix, which moved to 19-9, is wise enough to realize how different the Sparks, with a full roster, likely will be if these two teams meet in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, another game that stood out Thursday was Detroit’s 87-83 victory over Atlanta at the Palace at Auburn Hills, after which Dream coach Marynell Meadors sort of lost her grip just a bit.
OK, to be fair, maybe she was simply stating what she really thought, but … it was sort of hilarious to hear her say it like this. Provided the quote from the Associated Press is accurate, she ripped both the Shock and the officials afterward.
“They came out like the bunch of bullies that they are and pushed us around, and no calls were made,” Meadors said of Detroit’s players. “That’s what they had to do to win the game. I think we’re a better team than they are.”
Ummm … I doubt that’s really the way that Meadors wanted that to come out. Everybody knows the Shock will push physical play to the limit. And I’m sure opposing players and coaches privately have called Detroit any number of names along the lines of “bully” _ several of which would earn this blog an “R” rating.
But the way Meadors said this, it sort of inadvertently suggested some Atlanta wimpiness. I couldn’t help but laugh – immediately getting the image in my head that used to be on the back of comic books. You know, the cartoon of Mr. Spaghetti Arms being embarrassed in front of his girlfriend when Mr. Mean Guy kicks sand in his face. But thanks to a mail-order book from body-builder Charles Atlas, Mr. Spaghetti Arms bulks up, goes back to the beach, and kicks the bully’s tail.
Perhaps the Dream – lacking Chamique Holdsclaw, who had arthroscipic surgery this week _ is going to get a bunch of those Atlas books shipped out to Seattle, site of Atlanta’s next game Saturday.