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Derek Fisher’s nightmares against the Sun continue in Sparks loss

Derek Fisher confers with Brittney Sykes during the Sparks' loss to the Sun on Saturday night. (M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Sparks head coach Derek Fisher has plenty of bad memories against the Connecticut Sun. In all, including Los Angeles’ 77-60 road loss Saturday night, the Sun have outscored Fisher’s Sparks by 108 points and won nine of their 13 matchups during his coaching tenure, playoffs included.

The Sun eliminated the Sparks from each of their last two postseason appearances, including a three-game sweep in the 2019 WNBA semifinals that Fisher’s team lost by a combined 57 points. In Game 2 of the series, the Sparks suffered their third-worst postseason loss in franchise history, 94-68. Particularly vexing for fans and analysts was Fisher’s decision to play his star, Candace Parker, just 11 minutes in Game 3. In Games 2 and 3, Parker averaged 3.5 points per game.

In 2020, the 10-12 Sun stunned the 15-7 Sparks, eliminating them from the playoffs with a 73-59 victory in a winner-take-all second-round game that Nneka Ogwumike missed with a concussion. Last season, the Sun swept the Sparks in their three-game regular-season series, including 18-point and 15-point victories.

One game into the 2022 season series between these teams, and Fisher’s nightmares against Connecticut have continued.

The Sun jumped out to a 12-0 lead Saturday night and ended the half on a 21-6 run, leading 49-25 at halftime. In the first half, Connecticut out-rebounded Los Angeles 27-9, and Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas combined for 32 points, 16 rebounds and six assists. Nneka Ogwumike and Liz Cambage, meanwhile, tallied a mere eight points and four rebounds combined in the half.

The Sparks responded with a strong third quarter, outscoring the Sun 19-8, including 8-0 runs to start and end the frame, and trailing 57-44 heading into the fourth quarter. The closest the Sparks came to the Sun in the second half, however, was nine points after Jordin Canada’s 10-footer made the score 67-58 with 4:18 remaining in the game. After Canada’s runner, the Sun finished the game on a 10-2 run to win 77-60.

Connecticut out-rebounded L.A. 45-21 overall Saturday night and held a 19-8 advantage on the offensive glass.

“Ideally, they’re going to get a good shot later in the (shot) clock,” Fisher said of Connecticut’s offensive strategy after the game. “And then they just really beat you up on the offensive glass, and that becomes their most effective offense other than in transition.”

Canada continued to be a bright spot for the Sparks, tying the team lead with 12 points on 5-for-12 shooting from the field. The UCLA product and two-time WNBA champion, who signed with the Sparks in free agency after four seasons in Seattle, leads L.A. with 15.5 points per game through the first four contests.

“We like her being aggressive,” Fisher said of Canada prior to Saturday’s game. “We want her to stay with her foot on the gas.”

Alyssa Thomas paced Connecticut with 23 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two steals, while Jonquel Jones contributed 16 points, 12 boards, two steals and a block.

The Sparks play their home opener at Arena Tuesday night after beginning the season on a four-game road trip. Entering the season with a star-laden roster and high expectations, the Sparks are back to .500 after beginning the year 2-0.

“Eleven days straight since the season started and we haven’t seen our own beds,” Sparks forward Chiney Ogwumike said.” So, we’re looking forward to that opportunity to just get the natural energy (of playing at home).”

Joshua Fischman is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering Angel City FC and the Los Angeles Sparks. He has covered basketball for Vantage Sports and Hoops Rumors and served as co-host of “On the NBA Beat” podcast. Joshua received his master’s in Sports Media from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter @JJTheJuggernaut.