LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Sparks (15-21) are down to four games left in the season. And on Sunday, they’re playing their last one at home for the 2023 campaign.
The game is playing in Galen Center at USC. The Sparks have played there before; they blew out the Phoenix Mercury there on 23rd of August. This time around, L.A. will face the Washington Mystics (17-20).
It’s not the first time the Sparks have faced the Mystics. The first game saw the Mystics eek out a win on August 4. Then two nights later, the Sparks got their immediate revenge and it started their 6-game run.
The rubber match at the University of Southern California will be much different than their previous two games. First off, the Mystics have Elena Delle Donne back. Shakira Austin had been playing, too, but she’ll be out for this game. Ariel Atkins will also not be playing. But getting Delle Donne back in the line-up, who won the 2015 and 2019 MVP awards, will make a huge difference for the Mystics. In fact, Washington defeated the Las Vegas Aces in her return game back on the 26th of August.
In the previous two games against the Sparks, the Mystics gave up offensive rebounding to get back into defense. With Delle Donne back in the mix, they get some size back so they’ll have help on the boards. And oh, yeah, EDD can score as she averages 19.6 points in her career. She’s also the only one to achieve a 50-40-90 (that’s 50 percent in field goals, 40 percent in three-pointers, and 90 percent in free throws) season in the WNBA.
That lightens the load for both Natasha Cloud and Brittney Sykes, who have played wonderfully for them throughout the season. Getting Delle Donne back gives the Mystics a legit shot at the championship. That’s how good she is.
Meanwhile, the Sparks have struggled recently as they have lost their last three games. They’re tied with Chicago at 15-21 but the Sky hold the tiebreaker for the 8th playoff spot due to them winning the season series against the Sparks, three games to one. So even if the Sparks win out, they’ll need Chicago to lose and get behind them in the standings.
At this point, we know the Sparks need Layshia Clarendon in the line-up. While there’s no official word for her availability as of this writing, she was noticeably absent from practice on Saturday afternoon so she likely won’t be playing in this game. As we’ve mentioned countless times, the Sparks are 12-8 with Layshia in the line-up and 3-13 without her.
The Sparks will have to take care of the ball and stop having lulls offensively. It was especially evident against Seattle on Thursday when it felt like the basket had a lid. They’re not going to defeat the Mystics by only scoring 61 points. Granted, they were playing their fifth game in 9 nights but every team goes through that grueling schedule.
Will the Sparks stop their three-game skid? Or will D.C. give them their fourth straight loss? It should be an intriguing game as both teams try to position themselves in the playoff picture. In the Sparks’ case, they’re just trying to get in. And who doesn’t want to be part of that group of cool kids in the playoffs?