By Steve Finley
Sports Reporter 

Sparks Need Wins to Stay Close to the Top of the WNBA


George Laase

Candace Parker and the Sparks battle Indiana Friday at the Staples Center at 7:30 p.m.

The Los Angeles Sparks of the Women's National Basketball Association have 11 games left in the regular season and all of the games are extremely important. With four games separating the top eight teams in the league playoffs seeding will be determined by what happens during the next month.

At press time Seattle is in first place with a record of 16-6, followed by Phoenix at 15-8, the Sparks are 14-9, Dallas and Washington are 13-9, Atlanta is 12-9 and Connecticut and last years' champion, Minnesota are 12-10.

"I think there is a lot of balance in the league this year," said Dallas Wings coach Fred Williams on July 12, after they beat the Sparks at home on camp day at the Staples Center. "Over the years the league has been built on balance. Any given night a team can beat you and that's what you want in a league. You don't want a lopsided league."

The Sparks last 11 regular season games start Friday when they take on Indiana at the Staples Center at 7:30 p.m. Of the 10 remaining games after Friday six of them will be on the road. There remaining home games are July 24 against Atlanta, August 2 they battle Minnesota, August 5, they play Phoenix and August 14, they face New York.

If the Sparks expect to stay at the top of the WNBA standings they need to rebound better and restore their defense back to the level that they were playing at the beginning of the year. "Traditionally we are a pretty good defensive team but we have to be more aggressive," said Sparks head coach Brian Agler last week.

Agler knows he can count on good coaching and veteran leadership to keep the team moving in the right direction. "The most critical thing is to stay together and have the ability to be honest with yourself,"

Agler continued to say, "Right now we are not playing as well as we can. We need to improve at the point of attack with the pick and roll and we are not doing a very good job on second chance points."


Maria Vadeeva defending Liz Cambage

The Sparks are led by the scoring of Candance Parker at 17.9 points per game. Nneka Ogwumike is averaging 16.1 and Chelsea Gray is averaging 14.8 points per game.

The key to the Sparks season maybe the play of Jantel Lavender. The 6'4" veteran center is having an off season right now. Last year she was the best player in the league coming off the bench but this year she is averaging only 4.5 points per and 3.6 rebounds per game. If she can play like she did last season the Sparks will go deep into the playoffs.


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