Los Angeles Sparks coach Brian Agler said the team isn’t panicking after losing their last two games. But he also said there could be a line up change Sunday, as the Sparks play the first of their last three games to end the regular season.
“There could be,” he said Saturday night of a possible starting shuffle. “I haven’t decided yet, but I want to see some people play and evaluate some people on the roster.”
After dropping their first two games in the return from Olympic break, the Sparks won three in a row before losing to fellow top-seed Minnesota last Tuesday. Two nights later, against the visiting Atlanta Dream, Los Angeles got off to what Agler called a sluggish start. After four minutes in the first quarter, he yanked starters Candace Parker and Kristi Toliver, and didn’t reinsert them until the beginning of the third period.
Agler was direct in explaining why he made the switch.
“We were down 15-5. I wanted to see what someone else could do,” he said.
Sparks reserve guard Chelsea Gray posted double digits for the second game in a row against the Dream, scoring 16 points. Essence Carson also had 16, as did Parker, and Nneka Ogwumike put up 15 points. Agler said he was especially pleased with five players on the night.
“Chelsea Gray has been playing really well, and Nneka always competes,” Agler said. “Essence has been coming back around, and Sandrine (Gruda) got some good minutes, as did Ana (Dabovic).”
Los Angeles clinched a playoff spot before the break began, with a 21-3 record, and they were tied with the Lynx for first place before last week’s loss. The Sparks are still three games ahead of third-place New York, but with three games to play remaining, Agler said he wants to see the team sharp again.
“We’re not in panic mode, but we’ve got to get our edge back,” he said. “We’ve got to get back to where we were and get ready for the playoffs, and we want to get there fresh and healthy.”
Agler said the loss to Minnesota wasn’t for lack of desire or effort. But against the Dream, he didn’t like what he saw.
“We got off to a slow start in both halves and we got better and started to play as we’re capable of playing,” Agler said. “But when we began we weren’t motivated, engaged or focused.”
As a longtime WNBA coach, Agler said he’s seen similar scenarios before.
“You get to a point late in the year and a team sees where their path is going, and they have a tendency to lose their edge,” he said.
Agler said after the Atlanta loss that poor play “would not be tolerated.” He said he reiterated that to the team.
“We have discussed it, and they know what they need to do,” he said.
The Sparks are in Seattle to face the Storm, who are 5-2 since the break. Tipoff is at 4 p.m. Pacific time.