The Los Angeles Sparks have two regular season games left in the season but their run to the postseason could come to an end if they can’t get a win on Thursday. The Chicago Sky and the Sparks each have 16-22 records but the Sky hold the tiebreaker since they beat L.A. three out of four times this year. Should the Sparks lose and the Sky win on Friday, the Sparks can only tie the Sky in a best-case scenario so they would be eliminated from the postseason should that happen.
The Sparks are playing the New York Liberty on Thursday night. The Liberty are the hottest team in the league right now.
New York has won 7 straight and they still have something to play for: home court advantage throughout the playoffs. They have a 31-7 slate and are only one game behind the defending champion Las Vegas Aces (32-6).
We know how terrifying and loaded the Liberty are. We know what Breanna Stewart can do; she just recently had a 40-point, 10-rebound game against the Dallas Wings. Stewie also broke Diana Taurasi’s record for most points in a single WNBA season (yes, this season is the longest WNBA season ever but I digress). Sabrina Ionescu is one shy of tying Diana’s record for most three-pointers in a season; she has 120 while Diana is at 121. Courtney Vandersloot tied her own career-high of 300 assists in a season (Alyssa Thomas does hold the new all-time lead in that department at 305). Jonquel Jones has been a monster on the boards and Betnijah Laney has adjusted perfectly to her role. And we still have Marine Johannes and Kayla Thornton coming off the bench that keep the flow going for New York.
The Liberty have defeated the Sparks twice. The first one threatened a blowout but the final became more respectable when the Sparks attempted a late rally. The second game was a grinder that New York pulled out late.
The Sparks never really make any excuses and they always make it tough against their opponents with their harassing defense and determination where teams know they have to beat the Sparks. However, this task for the Sparks seems more challenging than ever. They’ve missed Nneka Ogwumike for the last two games due to a knee injury and Karlie Samuelson missed the last game due to bruised ribs. Both are said to be questionable for Thursday. Without their leader and their assassin from afar, it’s going to be more difficult than ever, especially since they’re going against a scorching Liberty team.
But the Sparks have played with their backs against the wall all season. Coach Curt Miller has lauded the team’s grit and determination and they’ll have to show that more than ever in the Big Apple.
A win keeps the Sparks alive in the playoff chase. A loss may end those playoff dreams. But no matter what, the Sparks will continue to fight. It’s what they’ve done all of 2023.