The Los Angeles Sparks are in must-win mode as they try to keep their playoff hopes alive on Sunday when they host the Seattle Storm.
The Sparks (10-19) are one of four teams competing for the WNBA’s final two playoff spots and, of those teams, they own the fewest victories with three contests remaining. They have also matched a season-worst six-game losing streak at a very inopportune time.
In fact, Los Angeles didn’t look the least bit ready to play in Thursday’s 75-57 home loss to the Connecticut Sun. The Sparks trailed 17-0 at the outset of a massively important contest.
Los Angeles coach Derek Fisher is perplexed with his club and looking to see a stronger commitment.
“I’m looking at who’s really willing to continue working hard every day, who’s still willing to come in early and stay late,” Fisher told reporters. “Who’s still willing to sit down in the coach’s office and watch film and ask questions, because when this season ends whenever it goes like this isn’t the finish line.”
The Sparks will catch a break Sunday night as Seattle star Breanna Stewart will be sidelined with a left foot injury. Stewart was injured during Tuesday’s 105-71 home win over the Washington Mystics and won’t play again in the regular season.
The Storm (20-10) have already clinched one of the league’s eight playoff spots, and the club said Stewart will be re-evaluated prior to the start of the postseason. The 2018 WNBA MVP is averaging 20.3 points and 9.5 rebounds in 28 games this season.
Stephanie Talbot, who averages 5.6 points and 2.9 rebounds, will move into Seattle’s starting lineup.
“It changes things a lot,” Storm coach Noelle Quinn told the Seattle Times of losing Stewart. “Throughout this season, there’s been a little bit of adversity. It’s been next-woman-up mentality.”
Jewell Loyd led the way with 20 points, and the Storm matched their season high of 14 3-point baskets in the easy victory over Washington. Seattle is looking for its third straight win following a stretch in which it lost three consecutive contests and five of seven.
The Storm are 2-0 against the Sparks this season, sweeping a home-and-home series in early July by an average of 9.5 points.
Los Angeles likely will be without Chiney Ogwumike after she aggravated a knee injury against Connecticut.
–Field Level Media