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Sparks eager to put on a better all-around performance in critical Game 2 versus Sun

Sparks guard Riquna Williams is greeted by coach Derek Fisher.
Coach Derek Fisher acknowledges Sparks guard Riquna Williams as she exits the WNBA semifinals game Tuesday against the Sun.
(Associated Press)

An intense morning film session before Wednesday’s practice did not result in any magic revelations for the Los Angeles Sparks.

Simply put, they already knew the Connecticut Sun was a quality opponent and played like one in an 84-75 victory in the first game of the WNBA semifinals at Mohegan Sun Arena.

“You don’t get to this point by all of a sudden becoming a different version of yourself,” first-year Los Angeles head coach Derek Fisher said. “Connecticut was who they have been all season.

“They played hard, they played with energy and they played for each other,” he added. “I don’t think that’s going to change tomorrow night.

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“A lot of times in these situations it’s not so much about trying to adjust to what the opponent might do, but really being strong and resolute in who you are and be better in a lot of the areas you can control.”

The third-seeded Sparks (22-14) have several areas where they can make improvements going into Game 2 with the Sun (24-11), which is set for 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

Candace Parker scored 24 points and Nneka Ogwumike added 20, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Sparks from losing to the Connecticut Sun 84-75 in Game 1.

The best-of-five series shifts to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Sunday. But unless the Sparks can improve their defensive communication and limit turnovers, they could be facing an elimination game at home.

“If we can limit our turnovers, the unforced ones at least, I think we’ll at least give ourselves a better chance,” said Fisher, who watched his team make 19 turnovers in the opener. “And we did have a chance until a few minutes to go” in Game 1.

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The Sparks had chances even with their starting backcourt of Riquna Williams and Chelsea Gray managing just six points on a combined 3 of 17 shooting against an aggressive Sun defense.

“We just didn’t make shots — shots we take every game,” Williams said. “It was shots we’ve been taking all season; it’s just we didn’t make them.

“It was nothing they did in particular.”

Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, left, and Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones battle for the ball during Game 1 of the WNBA semifinals on Tuesday.
Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, left, and Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones battle for the ball during Game 1 of the WNBA semifinals on Tuesday.
(Associated Press)

Maybe not, but the Sparks clearly needed more offensive punch against a balanced Sun attack that shared the wealth as four of five starters reached double figures.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, could only count on Candace Parker (24 points) and Nneka Ogwumike (20 points) to be steady point producers. The Sparks’ 1-2 punch was 19-for-27 from the field, while the rest of the team was 11 of 37.

“I think it will be a big boost for us, but it’s how,” Parker said. “If we spread that third option around three people and they are good, quality shots, I would take that over four double-digit scores.

“We just have to be better tomorrow.”

In a multi-game series, the Sparks are fortunate to have a tomorrow. If they take advantage of the second chance, they could get a boost returning to Staples Center, where they went 15-2 this season.

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“If we can come in tomorrow and steal that win, then we can put the pressure on them because we know we are amazing at home,” Williams said. “We just have to find a way to be great on the road.”


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