Silver Stars-Sparks Preview
While the San Antonio Silver Stars and Los Angeles Sparks sit in a virtual second-place tie in the Western Conference, there's no debating as to who has held the edge in their recent head-to-head matchups.
San Antonio, riding a franchise-best 12-game winning streak, aims for its first four-game season sweep of red-hot Los Angeles, which tries to avenge its only home defeat of the year Thursday night.
Both teams are 1 1/2 games behind WNBA-best Minnesota in the West, but the Silver Stars (16-5) have to like their chances of creating some separation from the Sparks (17-6) in this matchup.
San Antonio started its 12-game run with back-to-back victories over the Sparks and has won five straight in the series, including three this season by an average of 15.6 points. Sophia Young averaged 22.3 points in those three while Becky Hammon added 17.7 and 7.7 assists per game for the Silver Stars, who took all three meetings with Los Angeles in 2007 but have never swept a four-game season series.
"On paper, we probably don't look like a good matchup for them," Hammon said following a 94-80 home win June 28 in the last meeting. "And I think that's generally what people think. But you got to go out there and play the game. I think we have a really focused approach with them."
While San Antonio also won 91-71 at Staples Center on June 24, the Sparks have otherwise proven unbeatable at home. Los Angeles improved to 10-1 on its own court Tuesday, defeating Indiana 79-69 to extend its overall winning streak to seven.
Kristi Toliver led the way with 21 points and all five starters scored in double figures for the Sparks, who haven't won eight in a row since June 7-25, 2006.
The Silver Stars, meanwhile, looked sluggish Tuesday in a 75-72 win over lowly Washington. They missed 24 of 37 shots in the first half and were outscored 28-16 in the fourth quarter.
"(Missed) some shots?" said Hammon, who scored a game-high 22 points. "(We missed) all the shots. It was rough going there. That happens. What you want to do is keep playing defense, try to stay within striking distance or maintain a little bit of a lead because you know the shooting is eventually going to come around."
Fellow guard Danielle Robinson also came up big with a season high-tying 16 points, including six in the final three minutes.
"Wasn't that amazing - from a standpoint of shot-making," coach Dan Hughes said of Robinson. "We moved the ball well, but if your strategy is to leave her open, she's evolving into an excellent mid-range shooter."
Robinson is averaging 13.0 points - 4.0 more than her season mark - over her last five games while shooting 59.0 percent.
Since losing four of its first five road games, San Antonio has won seven in a row. Its eight road wins are tied for the most in the league.