LOS ANGELES — The Sparks have won six of their last seven games but the job is not done if they want to end their two-year dry spell and make the playoffs for the first time since 2020.
The Sparks (15-19) are 1½ games ahead of Chicago (14-21) in the standings for the eighth and final playoff spot in the 12-team WNBA with less than two weeks left in the regular season. The Sparks are a half-game behind seventh-place Atlanta (16-19), one game behind sixth-place Washington (16-18), and 1½ games behind fifth-place Minnesota (17-18).
The Sparks have three regular-season home games left, and they will play the first one Tuesday night when they host Chicago at Crypto.com Arena. They host Seattle (10-25) on Thursday at Crypto.com Arena before meeting Washington on Sunday at USC’s Galen Center.
The Sparks are 1-2 against Chicago this season, and while a loss would not immediately drop them below Chicago in the standings it would give the Sky the head-to-head tiebreaker if both teams finish with the same record.
So Tuesday’s game has the feel of a must-win game for the Sparks.
The Sparks lost back-to-back road games against Chicago in late June. Chicago guard Courtney Williams had 21 points and nine rebounds in an 80-63 Sky win in the first game and a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists in the Sky’s 86-78 win in the second game. However, Chicago has struggled recently, winning just two of its last eight games, both of those coming against struggling Seattle.
The Sparks are coming off an 83-68 loss at Connecticut, which was Coach Curt Miller’s first time back in Uncasville, after coaching the Sun for seven seasons, including two appearances in the WNBA Finals in 2019 and 2022.
The opening night roster put together by first-year Sparks general manager Karen Bryant and Miller has been riddled with injuries and illness this season, as Lexie Brown, Layshia Clarendon, Chiney Ogwumike and Nia Clouden have all missed significant time. Katie Lou Samuelson (pregancy/maternity leave) and Steph Talbot (ACL) also did not suit up this season.
However, 2016 MVP Nneka Ogwumike is having one of the best seasons of her career in her 12th year in the league, averaging a team-high 19.3 points and 8.8 rebounds, which nearly mimics her output during her MVP campaign. Sparks point guard Jordin Canada, a former Windward High and UCLA standout is also carrying a heavy load, averaging a career-best 13.5 points and six assists this season.
“In the beginning of the year we had a lot of adversity with people being injured,” said Canada, who is a candidate for the league’s Most Improved Player award and WNBA All-Defensive team honors. “But toward the end of the season, we’re really starting to find our flow and our chemistry and we’re connecting. We’re starting to click at the right time, which is super important when we’re fighting for a playoff position.”
Sometime in the next two weeks, the Sparks will either clinch a postseason berth or miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season, which has never happened in the franchise’s 27-year history.
CHICAGO AT SPARKS
When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Crypto.com Arena
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, CBS Sports Network