Sparks’ playoff hopes officially dashed by Connecticut – San Bernardino Sun

LOS ANGELES — The Sparks knew what was at stake but were blown off their home floor, 93-69, by the Connecticut Sun on Thursday night at Arena.

At 13-22 overall with one game left on their schedule, the Sparks have been officially eliminated from playoff contention for the second straight year, which has only happened one other time in the WNBA franchise’s 26-year history: (1997 and ’98), the team’s first two years in the league.

Connecticut (24-11), which clinched the No. 3 seed with the win, was led by All-Star forward Alyssa Thomas, who had a game-high 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

Four teams remain in contention for the final two playoff spots in the 12-team league, but the Sparks, who have lost eight of their past nine games, can no longer finish in the top eight.

“Every game you play, even the first game of the season is a must-win situation because then you get in this situation towards the end of the season,” Sparks interim head coach Fred Williams said before tip-off.

Before the game, Willams also said the Sparks wanted to focus on boxing out against offensive rebounds and playing solid defense, in particular against Connecticut Sun All-Star center Jonquel Jones, who is the WNBA’s reigning MVP. However, in addition to Jones’ 17 points, it was Thomas’ 18 points and All-Star center Brionna Jones’ 16 points and eight rebounds, that proved to be the Sparks’ downfall.

Connecticut forward DeWanna Bonner also had 17 points, seven assists and four rebounds.

Sparks guard Chennedy Carter played 21 minutes, after missing four straight games due to a “coach’s decision”, per Williams.

Carter checked in off the bench with 3:55 left in the first quarter and scored on a layup 13 seconds later to pull the Sparks within 15-11. Carter finished with eight points, two rebounds, one assist and three turnovers.

The Sparks trailed 25-20 at the end of the first quarter and 54-43 at halftime. The Sparks fell behind by as much as 27 points in the third quarter and trailed 82-57 heading into the fourth quarter.

Williams explained the decision to play the 5-foot-9 Carter as a change of heart, after talking with the guard.

“My heart,” Williams said. “(I’m) human. There are certain things that her and I talked about (Thursday) at shootaround that we both came to a comprise on and so it’s time to move on. I felt that she’s a player who has shown the last few games to support her teammates and everyone so we will get her out there and see what she can do.”

Sparks All-Star forward Nneka Ogwumike had trouble matching Thomas and Brionna Jones inside and was held to four first-half points on 2-for-6 shooting. Ogwumike finished with 10 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and four turnovers.

Connecticut general manager and head coach Curt Miller said beforehand that it would be difficult to beat the Sparks twice in 48 hours, especially after winning, 97-71, on Tuesday night.

“It’s very difficult and it’s great practice for playoffs,” Miller said. “This is what series feel like.”

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