The host Los Angeles Sparks and the Atlanta Dream, who are set to meet Tuesday night, are both hoping to turn around their fortunes.
Los Angeles (7-13) has the third-worst record in the WNBA and had dropped six in a row before a 75-70 win over the visiting Indiana Fever on Sunday.
Atlanta (6-14) owns the second-worst record in the league and has lost five games in a row and 12 of the past 14.
The optimism for the Sparks is based in part on the return of Nneka Ogwumike, who returned Sunday from a knee injury that had kept her out since June 1. Logging 31 minutes, she had 12 points and seven rebounds against the Fever.
“It feels great to be back,” Ogwumike said. “This is the longest I’ve sat out due to injury. I wasn’t as swift as I’d like to be, but my mindset was to have fun and help my team win.”
Mission accomplished for Ogwumike, whose effort assisted the Sparks in snapping a season-worst losing streak as the team returned from the one-month-plus Olympic break in style.
The Dream could not stop their skid as they returned from the break on Sunday, falling 92-81 to the host Phoenix Mercury.
Courtney Williams led Atlanta with 30 points and six assists while adding five rebounds. She shot 14-for-27 from the floor.
No other Dream player scored in double figures, however, with the rest of the team shooting 23-for-63 (36.5 percent).
Darius Taylor, Atlanta’s interim coach, made his Dream top-job debut on Sunday. He replaced Mike Peterson, who stepped down during the Olympic break because of health reasons.
The other big change for Atlanta was the debut of Candice Dupree, who started on Sunday and scored nine points. She was waived by the Seattle Storm in early July after averaging 5.9 points and 2.5 rebounds in 16 games (two starts) this season.
The Dream are still without two of their biggest stars: Chennedy Carter (indefinite suspension reportedly due to a verbal altercation with Williams) and Tiffany Hayes (knee injury). Hayes had been Atlanta’s leading scorer prior to her injury in June.
“We’ve got to fight, scrap and claw each game,” Taylor said. “It’s tough to win in this league, but we have to give ourselves a chance. We’re not counting ourselves out.”
The Dream have to improve on defense to have any shot at making the playoffs. They are last in the league in opponents’ scoring average as well as 3-point and 2-point shooting percentage allowed.
Excluding Hayes, Williams leads Atlanta in scoring average (17.0 points per game) and assists (4.2). Not counting Nneka Ogwumike, Erica Wheeler leads Los Angeles in scoring (13.9) and assists (4.5).
–Field Level Media