The race to fourth place in the WNBA standings and the first-round bye in the playoffs suddenly has become a little more interesting.
That spot is currently occupied by the Chicago Sky, who are just a game up in the standings on the Indiana Fever. Those two Eastern Conference rivals square off Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis in a key contest as the regular season rolls into its final stretch.
Things could be all square if Indiana (14-15) defeats Chicago (15-14) on Thursday. A Fever win would also grant them the main tiebreaker if the two teams are knotted at the end of the season because of head-to-head victories.
The Sky might have to play Thursday's game without three of their key players.
Forward Elena Delle Donne, the WNBA's leading scorer (21.5 points per game) and her team's top rebounder (seven per game), sustained a thumb injury in the Sky's 118-81 loss to Washington on Wednesday. Both Delle Donne and Tamera Young (ankle) have been ruled day-to-day by Chicago following their injuries.
The Sky's Cheyenne Parker did not dress at Washington and missed her second consecutive game due to an existing ankle injury. Her participation will be a game-time decision.
Indiana enters Thursday's crucial contest off a 71-69 win against the San Antonio Stars on Tuesday night in which the Fever won the game at the free throw line, converting 27 of 30 attempts. Among that flurry were the winning points on a pair from the charity stripe by Briann January with 2.2 seconds remaining.
Indiana's leading scorer Tamika Catchings had just one point in the win but did corral eight rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
The two teams have split their two games this season, with the road squad winning each time. Indiana has earned a spot in the playoffs for a record 11 consecutive postseasons.