The Los Angeles Sparks stay being dramatic. After firing head coach Derek Fisher a few games into the season, they’ve now agreed to a “contract divorce” with star center Liz Cambage. Their opponent for Thursday, July 28, the Phoenix Mercury, aren’t exactly strangers to controversy either, and it wasn’t long ago that rumors swirled that they might seek to trade star guard Skylar Diggins-Smith.
While Cambage is a talented player, our WNBA betting picks and predictions for Sparks vs. Mercury sees her departure from her as likely addition by subtraction for this veteran Los Angeles team.
Sparks vs Mercury odds
This odds widget represents the best odds available for each betting market from regulated sportsbooks.
The Phoenix Mercury opened as low as -1.5-point favorites and now are getting as much as -3.5 points at some books. The total has similarly seen significant movement, from 161.5 to a current high of 166.0.
Use the live odds widget above to track any future line movements right up until tip-off and be sure to check out the full WNBA odds before placing your bets.
Sparks vs Mercury predictions
Predictions made on 7/28/2022 at 5:40 am ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.
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Sparks vs. Mercury info
• Location: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ
• Date: Thursday, July 28, 2022
• tip-off: 10:00 p.m. ET
• TV: CBS Sports Network
Sparks vs Mercury betting preview
Sparks: Kristi Toliver G (Questionable).
Mercury: Diamond DeShields G (Out).
Find our latest WNBA injury reports.
Betting trend to know
The Sparks are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games vs. a team with a losing straight up record. Find more WNBA betting trends for Sparks vs. Mercury.
Sparks vs Mercury picks and predictions
Our side and total predictions are based upon our analysis of the line and total in this game. Our best bet is our favorite pick across all markets.
The Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury have already played three times this season, with the Sparks having won two of those previous contests. But it’s not clear how much one can or should take away from those prior games, as these two teams have both seen major roster changes since they first matched up back in May.
As alluded to in our intro, Liz Cambage, free agent signee and WNBA star center, was bought out by the team earlier in the week at her request. The identity of LA, such as it is, has been about dominating the paint on both ends. It’s perhaps fair to wonder how much that will change without Cambage in the fold.
The Mercury, still missing Britney Griner, have also since moved on from Tina Charles and will also be without the services of Diamond DeShields for Thursday’s game. They’ve also moved Sophie Cunningham into the starting lineup, and her stellar play de ella has given the team’s sometimes languid offense a much-needed jumpstart.
Cunningham is averaging over 20 points per game over her last five outings and is up to an outrageous 64.8% true shooting on the season. If the Sparks want to hang around, they ca n’t afford to lose track of her de ella coming off of screens and in transition.
They’ll also have to contend with Skylar Diggins-Smith, who has been playing some of the best ball of her career of late. She’s scored over 20 points in all three previous games against Los Angeles this year and is coming off a 12-for-19 35-point masterpiece against the Seattle Storm.
With all that said, I still like the Sparks in this matchup. While it might seem intuitive to assume that drama is consuming their locker room, a close reading of the situation and Chris Haynes’ reporting for Yahoo Sports leads me to believe the opposite.
Yahoo Sources: Behind the scene events of the Liz Cambage, LA Sparks divorce that started off rocky from jump and ended as many anticipated: ‘Best of luck to you guys,’ she said before storming out the locker room. https://t.co/TiuKUS1pJ1
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 27, 2022
Cambage’s presence has been an evident drain on this Sparks team and her lackluster effort on the defensive end significantly outweighed her offensive contribution.
Much like teams that get a dead cat bounce when a coach is relieved of their duties, I expect this veteran group led by Nneka Ogwumike to rally the remainder of the team and play some of their best ball of the season Thursday night.
prediction: Sparks +3.5 (-105 at Betway)
Covers basketball betting analysis
Both the Sparks and Mercury are in the top half of the “W” in pace, but Phoenix’s offensive rating (102.4) is much better than Los Angeles’ (98.9). However, the real story is on the other side of the ball. By the numbers, these are two of the three worst defenses in the WNBA, only better than the Indiana Fever — who are an abysmal 5-25.
These teams are both in the Top 5 in opponent free throw frequency, and the Mercury lead the league in free throw attempt rate, so a foul-heavy game is more than likely. More fouls mean more free throws — the highest efficiency shots in basketball.
Critically, both teams fall prey to the other’s preferred offensive attack. The Sparks want to goad their opponents into shooting a copious volume of threes, high-value shots that Diana Taurasi, Sophie Cunningham, and Skylar Diggins-Smith will gladly take.
In turn, Phoenix tries to shut the tap on the opponent’s 3-point shooting and concedes more touches around the rim, a formula that augurs a high-scoring night by Los Angeles.
While I do think the Sparks’ transition defense will see an uptick with Cambage no longer with the team, that alone isn’t enough of a reason to favor the Under.
prediction: Over 166 (-110 at Betway)
Like so many of the games LA finds itself in, it’ll be going up against a team that wants to play a drastically different style of basketball than it does. The Mercury thrive on threes and free throws while the Sparks live to dominate the paint.
Phoenix allows among the highest per-game totals in both opponent points in the paint (36.1) and opponent second chance points (12.1). That spells trouble against Los Angeles, and specifically against Nneka Ogwumike.
Ogwumike shoots north of 58% from inside the arc, and Phoenix sans Brittney Griner and Tina Charles, has no credible options to guard her. Furthermore, with Cambage out of the picture, it’s possible the Sparks lean on lineups with more spacing. Too often when Cambage and Ogwumike played together, Nneka was often forced to operate in a phone booth just to create any kind of shot.
Neither of these teams has shown great consistency this season, but LA has at least shown a recent ability to take care of minus .500 teams. It’s 4-1 against the spread in its last five games vs. teams with losing records.
Without knowing which version of the Mercury or the Sparks might show up Thursday, I like taking the away side with the points.
Pick: Spark +3.5 (-105 at Betway)
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