So how does one play chess on a basketball court?
The Sparks have a game Tuesday night against Phoenix, a team they possibly could meet next week in the first round of the WNBA playoffs. Naturally they don't want to show off too many moves; but at the same time they don't want the Mercury to gain any confidence against them.
Although it wasn't artistic, the Sparks managed to accomplish both tasks, pulling away for a 73-60 victory in front of 10,899 at Staples Center.
The win pads the Spark record to 24-8 (equaling the number of regular-season victories from last season). And the team was comfortable doing so behind Lisa Leslie, who has been sizzling since the WNBA season resumed after the Athens Olympics. On Tuesday she had a season-high 31 points with seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
Other Sparks were quietly effective. Nikki Teasley had 13 points and seven assists. Mwadi Mabika added 11. And rookie Christi Thomas had eight points and a game-high nine rebounds.
"We want to focus on being consistent," Spark co-Coach Karleen Thompson said. "We had a couple of lapses tonight, and maybe teams know us for that, which is why they keep pushing us. Hopefully you live and you learn."
The Sparks say they hear the message even if it doesn't always show.
"The fact that the last three teams we face could be playoff teams that we see should be a big enough motivation for us," said Tamecka Dixon, who had eight points. "We want them to know we are serious about competing in the playoffs. We don't want them to feel any advantage on us."
Phoenix (16-15), which led, 33-32, at the half, is trying to hold off Sacramento for the final Western Conference playoff spot. The loss trimmed the Mercury's lead over the Monarchs to a game.
And it will be difficult for Phoenix to get that playoff spot if it can't get rookie Diana Taurasi out of her funk.
Whether it's the effects of the Olympics, or the cumulative effect of a long college, Olympic and pro calendar year, the precocious Taurasi is not playing up to her lofty standards. She had seven points Tuesday, making only three of 12 shots. And although it was her first time in six games not scoring in double figures, she entered Tuesday's game making only 36 of her previous 90 shots from the field.
Penny Taylor and Anna DeForge each had 12 points for Phoenix.
"She has hit a wall before," Coach Carrie Graf said of Taurasi. "It's been a long, hard year for her. We have to find a way to keep her involved and keep her fresh because she is such a talented young player.
"But it's also a team game. Obviously we need her feeling good about how she's playing. But she gives us more than just scoring.
"There will be nights when she doesn't hit her shots, but it's OK if we have other people rolling."
For her part, Taurasi did not cite fatigue.
"I feel fine," she said. "Sometimes you go through a game where things don't go your way. You have to find other ways to get things done. Today I didn't do that."