With Becky Hammon trying to work her way back into All-Star form, point guard Danielle Robinson has given the San Antonio Stars a tremendous lift during their surprising start.
San Antonio seeks its first three-game win streak since 2012 on Sunday while trying to send the potentially short-handed Los Angeles Sparks to their worst start in four years.
Making her much-anticipated season debut, Hammon finished with eight points and four assists in 23 minutes for the Stars (2-1) in a 78-74 victory at Phoenix on Friday. The seven-time All-Star, who had been out with a sprained ankle, played in only her second game since 2012 after suffering a broken finger and torn ACL last season.
"Really happy to have her back on the court," said Robinson, who started alongside Hammon in the backcourt. "But at the end of the day it's going to be a team effort and people are going to have to step up."
Robinson has certainly elevated her play, averaging 18.0 points on 21-of-32 shooting with 6.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists over the first three contests. She put up 11.2 points, 6.7 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game last season.
On Friday, Robinson had 14 points, nine assists and eight boards to help put San Antonio on the verge of its best start since it opened 4-0 in her 2011 rookie season.
"We think she has become one of the better point guards in this league," Stars coach Dan Hughes said. "It's just fun to watch her develop year-to-year."
Robinson played a key role in San Antonio's only win in four meetings with Los Angeles last season, finishing with 18 points and seven assists in an 83-78 home win June 1. She'll try to help the Stars, who finished 12-22 in 2013, win three in a row for the first time since a 12-game run during their last playoff-qualifying season two years ago.
It isn't likely to be an easy task at Staples Center, where the Sparks (1-1) are coming off only their third home loss in 18 regular-season games dating to last season.
Since winning five straight in the series, San Antonio has dropped six of the last seven matchups -- including an 0-2 mark in the 2012 playoffs. The Stars also have lost four straight in Los Angeles by an average of 23.5 points.
The Sparks are looking to avoid their worst start since opening 0-3 in 2010 after the Mercury went on a 13-3 run over the final 2 1/2 minutes to pull out a 74-69 victory at Staples last Sunday.
Candace Parker had 23 points and 11 rebounds and Alana Beard scored 16 for Los Angeles, which shot just 31.6 percent in the fourth quarter. Parker has 41 points and 17 boards through the first two contests, while Beard has scored a combined 33.
Nneka Ogwumike averaged 19.7 points in the Sparks' three wins over the Stars in 2013, but her status is uncertain after she sat out last Sunday's game with a back injury.
San Antonio's Davellyn Whyte will miss the rest of the season after sustaining an ACL tear in her right knee in practice earlier this week. The second-year guard played nine minutes in the first two games.