Sparks flying with four straight wins, Fever going for two in a row

On top of the WNBA standings sit the Los Angeles Sparks.

On the opposite end is where the Indiana Fever reside.

The Sparks are 8-2 and have won four straight as coach Brian Agler has a full complement of players after injury and overseas commitments jumbled his early season lineup.

The Fever now are 1-10 after soundly defeating the Atlanta Dream 96-64 on Saturday.

“We needed this,” Indiana’s Erica Wheeler said. “There were a couple of games that we played, we felt like we were there and we didn’t get over the hump. Today we got over the hump.”

Indiana will hope to make it two straight, and Los Angeles will hope to avoid a trap when the two tangle on Tuesday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The Fever trailed the Dream at halftime but came out on fire in the third quarter and cruised to the win.

“It was just nice to get the first one out of the way,” Fever coach Pokey Chatman told the Indianapolis Star. “It wasn’t just holding onto the win. It was nice to sub people and the momentum continued in all phases of basketball.”

The rookie duo of Victoria Vivans and Kelsey Mitchell combined for 21 third-quarter points. The duo connected on 5 of 6 3-pointers. Vivens finished with 21 points and Mitchell scored 19.

“I was telling (Chatman) that we work our tail off to trust the process and a little of our hard work finally pays off,” Mitchell said. “Not that it’s dramatic that we win, but it is because we’ve been on a drought. To get a win, it feels good.”

Winning is expected in the Sparks’ locker room. Their last loss, an embarrassing 25-point setback on June 7 to the Seattle Storm, lit a fire under Agler’s squad.

It might have taken the Sparks a few games to figure things out but figure out things they have.

“We had so many people either not here for training camp or injured in training camp, so we are sort of trying to get better as the season goes on and we sort of have to talk about it, walk through things, instead of practice all the time because of how compact the schedule is,” Agler said before the win over the Sky.

“But I think we are getting better and that is one reason our offense is getting better, because of our spacing and our cutting.”

That certainly is evident during the four-game streak, where the Sparks’ average winning margin is 11.5 points per game. Candace Parker is rounding into All-Star form after missing the early part of the season recovering from surgery. Parker is averaging just over 20 points per game during the streak.

LA’s defense during the past four games has given up just 59, 64, 86 and 72 points. For the season, the Sparks lead the league in fewest points allowed per game at 75.8.

Alana Beard, the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2017, anchors the Sparks’ defense. Nneka Ogwumike not only leads LA in scoring, rebounding, minutes played and field-goal percentage, but she leads the WNBA in steals at 1.7 per game.

Against the Sky, Chelsea Gray led all scorers with 21 points. Ogwumike added 20 points and 11 rebounds for her third double-double of the season. Parker also had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.