September 03, 2016

The Los Angeles Sparks have already locked up a playoff berth. The Indiana Fever have not.

The teams collide Sunday, when the Fever travel to Los Angeles to take on the Sparks at Staples Center.

With seven games remaining, Los Angeles (23-5) is in a first place tie with the Minnesota Lynx in the league standings. The Sparks host the Lynx on Tuesday.

But first they must deal with an Indiana team coming off an impressive bounce-back win over the New York Liberty on Thursday.

The Fever (13-14) suffered back-to-back home losses after returning from the Olympic break that left coaches and players scratching their heads.

The consecutive losses, both by double digits, dropped Indiana back into a pack of six teams vying for the final five playoff spots.

But the Fever exploded out of gates against the Liberty on Thursday, scoring 40 points in the first quarter and cruising to a 98-77 win. Shenise Johnson scored a career-high 21 points off the bench, and Marissa Coleman finished with 19 points versus the Liberty.

The Sparks also have gotten off to an uneven start after the Olympic break. Los Angeles returned from a month off with back-to-back losses. They've since responded with consecutive wins, but didn't perform well in victories over the San Antonio Stars and Dallas Wings, the two teams with the worst records in the WNBA.

Nneka Ogwumike had 28 points and 12 rebounds against the Wings, but Los Angeles didn't pull away from Dallas, which has lost 10 straight games, until late in the fourth quarter.

Ogwumike is having an MVP-caliber season and leads the Sparks in scoring (19.8 points per game) and rebounding (9.2 rebounds per game).

Forward Candace Parker is averaging 15.9 points and 7.6 rebounds, but is coming off a tough shooting night. Parker hit only 1-of-11 shots and finished only four points against Dallas.

Indiana and Los Angeles have split their two previous meetings, with each team winning on their home court. The Fever beat the Sparks 92-82 on July 19, behind 23 points from veteran Tamika Catchings. Catchings has announced that this is her final season of her illustrious career.

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