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Sparks’ playoff hopes officially dashed by Connecticut

LOS ANGELES — The Sparks knew what was at stake and fought until the end but were blown off their home floor, 93-69, by the Connecticut Sun on Thursday night at Arena.

At 13-22 overall with one game left on their schedule, the Sparks have been officially eliminated from playoff contention for the second straight year, which has only happened one other time in the WNBA franchise’s 26-year history: (1997 and ’98), the team’s first two years in the league.

Connecticut (24-11), which clinched the No. 3 seed with the win, was led by All-Star forward and Defensive Player of the Year candidate Alyssa Thomas, who had a game-high 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

The Sparks were led by guard Brittney Sykes who scored a team-high 18 points in 28 minutes.

Four teams remain in contention for the final two playoff spots in the 12-team league, but the Sparks, who have lost eight of their past nine games, and seven of eight games since center Liz Cambage’s “contract divorce,” can no longer finish in the top eight.

“Every game you play, even the first game of the season is a must-win situation because then you get in this situation towards the end of the season,” Sparks interim head coach Fred Williams said before tip-off.

Before the game, Willams also said the Sparks wanted to focus on boxing out against offensive rebounds and playing solid defense, in particular against Connecticut center Jonquel Jones, who is the WNBA’s reigning MVP. However, in addition to Jones’ 17 points, it was Thomas’ 18 points and All-Star center Brionna Jones’ 16 points and eight rebounds, that proved to be the Sparks’ downfall.

Connecticut forward DeWanna Bonner also had 17 points, seven assists and four rebounds.


Sparks guard Chennedy Carter played 21 minutes, after being benched and missing four straight games due to a “coach’s decision”, per Williams.

Carter checked in off the bench with 3:55 left in the first quarter and scored on a layup 13 seconds later to pull the Sparks within 15-11. Carter finished with eight points, two rebounds, one assist and three turnovers.

The Sparks trailed 25-20 at the end of the first quarter and 54-43 at halftime. The Sparks fell behind by as much as 27 points in the third quarter and trailed 82-57 heading into the fourth quarter.

Williams explained the decision to play Carter, the No. 4 pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, as a change of heart, after talking with the guard.

“My heart,” Williams said. “(I’m) human. There are certain things that her and I talked about (Thursday) at shootaround that we both came to a comprise on and so it’s time to move on. I felt that she’s a player who has shown the last few games to support her teammates and everyone so we will get her out there and see what she can do.”

After the game, Carter was asked what she said to Williams to make him feel comfortable enough to play her again.

“I think that’s a conversation for after the season,” Carter said after pausing for five seconds. “So, no comment.”

However, Sykes quickly interjected.

“I’m very proud of ‘Wood’ and the adversity that she’s been through this season,” Sykes said, referring to Carter by her “Hollywood” nickname. “Not many can do what she did and still be a good teammate, come to work every day.

“(Carter) pushes the hell out of me in practice and it’s a headache, but I’m glad she’s on my team because I don’t have to guard her in real life. But for real, I’m actually tired of people trying to figure out stuff. Wood is fine, she’s a great player. So let’s just leave it at that. When she gets on the floor, she does what she does. If she’s not on the floor, she’s not on the floor. There have been times where I’m not on the floor but there’s no secret, there’s no nothing. That’s between Coach and that’s between Wood, so Wood’s good, Coach Fred is good. That’s it.”

Carter was given another opportunity to address any rumors about the matter but did not speak.

However, Sykes continued by saying: “Wood’s good. Coach Fred said what he said, Wood’s good, we don’t have to explain that.”


Afterward, Williams, 65, reiterated that part of his role as a coach is to “protect” his players, in particular Carter.

“Because she’s human and I’m human,” Williams responded. “I think too many people in the outside world wants to get into other peoples’ world of what’s going on and it’s important for me as a coach, I’m more like a Godfather in this league, me and (Washington Mystics coach) Mike Thibault are probably the oldest active coaches in this league. For me, it’s important for that because those are personal things that Chennedy Carter and I talked about that savors her to continue on her career and so I protect her on that end and probably you’ll never know.

“But all I know is she was out there playing basketball today and having fun.”

Sparks All-Star forward Nneka Ogwumike had trouble matching Thomas and Brionna Jones inside and was held to four first-half points on 2-for-6 shooting. Ogwumike finished with 10 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and four turnovers and suffered a tweaked ankle late in the game.

Connecticut general manager and head coach Curt Miller said beforehand that it would be difficult to beat the Sparks twice in 48 hours, especially after winning, 97-71, on Tuesday night.

“It’s very difficult and it’s great practice for playoffs,” Miller said. “This is what series feel like.”

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