May 15, 2014

The Los Angeles Sparks are reeling from back-to-back losses as they prepare to visit the Seattle Storm on Saturday at KeyArena in Seattle, Wash.

Los Angeles (24-7) is second in the WNBA's Western Conference. The Sparks have fallen 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Minnesota Lynx. They are 3-4 since the month-long Olympic break after going 21-3 before the break.

Seattle (14-17) is third in the Western Conference, 10 games behind the Sparks. The Storm has won three in a row and five of seven since the break.

Under the WNBA's new playoff format, the top eight teams regardless of conference will qualify for the postseason. The top two teams receive a bye to the semifinals. The third and fourth seeds receive a bye to the second round.

Los Angeles is second in the playoff standings, three games ahead of the New York Liberty. Seattle is seventh, a half-game ahead of the Phoenix Mercury and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Washington Mystics.

The Sparks suffered a 77-74 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday and an 86-81 loss to the Atlanta Dream on Thursday. The Sparks trailed 67-49 before rallying to cut the deficit to two with 59 seconds to play, but the Dream held on to win. Angel McCoughtry had 32 points and 11 rebounds for Atlanta. Candace Parker, Chelsea Gray and Essence Carson scored 16 points apiece for Los Angeles.

The Storm is coming off an 81-76 victory over Washington, a big win in a battle between teams that are fighting for the last playoff spot. Breanna Stewart had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Seattle. Sue Bird had 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. The Storm shot 54.5 percent from the field while holding the Mystics to 38.4-percent shooting.

Los Angeles is led by MVP candidate Nneka Ogwumike, who is third in the WNBA in scoring and rebounding, averaging 19.6 points and nine rebounds per game.

Seattle is led by Stewart, who is sixth in the league in scoring and second in rebounding, averaging 18.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest.

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