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Liberty close out road trip in LA vs the Sparks

Indiana Fever v Los Angeles Sparks Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

What happened in Vegas will hopefully stay in Vegas. The New York Liberty tried to bounce back against the Las Vegas Aces on Thursday night, but the Aces took it to em again and won by 27 points.

The opponent today will be the Los Angeles Sparks. Things are looking pretty different in LA as the Sparks hope to get back to championship contention in their post Candace Parker era. They’v gotten off to a so-so start and lost their last game at home on Friday night to the Phoenix Mercury.

Where to follow the game

ESPN on TV. Brunch and basketball so we’re getting started after 4 PM.

Injuries

Natasha Howard and Jocelyn Willoughby are out. Kiah Stokes is questionable and Sabrina Ionescu is probable.

Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike, Jasmine Walker, and Maria Vadeeva are out.

The game

Everyone is down in the dumps following the Brooklyn Nets’ heartbreaking loss last night in Game 7 to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Liberty are the last pro basketball team left playing in New York. Such is life.

When you don’t have CP3 on your squad anymore, it’ll be a bit harder to generate some offense. Injuries have played a part, but there’s a bit more to it. Sean Hurd of ESPN explains:

But the real issue for Los Angeles has been on the offensive side of the ball, and losing the Ogwumikes — who contribute a combined 25.4 PPG — has made things harder. The team has the lowest points per game total in the league. Part of that could be ball movement. The Sparks rank last in the league in assists per game, with 45.0% of their made field goals being unassisted — highest in the league.

Without the Ogwumike sisters, Erica Wheeler is the Sparks’ leading option. She’s never been the leading option on her team, but with the injuries, she’s got a career high 25.8 percent usage rate. She’s getting to the rim a bit more this season, but she’s only made 53.3 percent of her shots inside of three feet. It’s tough to finish over the trees but Wheeler will need to make hay when she gets there.

Sabrina Ionescu is kinda back. She returned to action on Thursday night in Vegas and while she didn’t score, she at least played 15 minutes off the bench. Ankle injuries are hell (ask us how we know) so the hope is Ionescu continues to heal up, find her footing, and get back to playing at the All Star level she was at before the injury bug got a hold of her.

Whoever wins the rebounding battle will likely win this one. These are the two worst rebounding teams in the W so if someone exceeds expectations, it’ll help push their team to victory.

With that in mind, managing possessions takes on even more importance. The Sparks lead the league in forcing turnovers while the Liberty are third worst at committing turnovers. The Liberty will look to offset this by speeding up the pace (LA plays very slow while the Liberty are tops in pace this season).

Player to watch: Amanda Zahui B

Our old friend is in a new city and taking on a new challenge. AZB has continued to expand her game and followed up her three point gains from last year and is taking a shade over five per game. She’s only shooting 28.6 percent from three this year, but it’s still early. She gets her fair share of blocks and rebounds as her 1.6 blocks a night are sixth in the W and her six boards are top 20 in the W.

Kylee Shook has played admirably in the absence of Howard. Shook had trouble with the Aces frontcourt, but just about everyone does so no shame in that. Reshanda Gray will likely see the majority of the minutes at the five so Walt Hopkins will have two solid options to help corral the boards for them today.

From the Vault

Monday is the official anniversary of the first ever WNBA game. As it happens, the Liberty and Sparks were the first game, so let’s take it all the way back to the beginning

More reading: Silver Screen and Roll