The surging Los Angeles Sparks look to complete a sweep of their homestand and run their winning streak to five games Sunday night when they face a Chicago Sky team looking to build on one of its best wins of the year.
The Sparks (14-8) and Sky (14-9) are vying for a top-four spot, which carries a bye and home-court advantage in the second round of the playoffs. Los Angeles, which continues to thrive despite the absence of suspended guard Riquna Williams, improved to 3-0 on its homestand Thursday night after defeating Phoenix 84-74.
Nneka Ogwumike scored 10 of her 24 points in the first quarter, when the Sparks opened a 10-point lead, and Candace Parker added 12 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists as Los Angeles limited Phoenix to three first-quarter baskets and 34.9 percent shooting overall.
"We just want to start off strong in each game," All-Star guard Chelsea Gray told the Los Angeles Times. "I think that our defensive intensity this game was amazing coming out. We (made) them take some difficult shots."
The Sparks carry a seven-game home winning streak into this contest, a run that includes a 94-69 rout of the Sky on June 30. They have outscored opponents by 12.1 points in this stretch while averaging 84.3 points. Fellow All-Star Ogwumike has been the driving force of the offense, scoring 20.1 points per contest in her last eight games to lift her season scoring average to 16.9.
Chicago made its case to be included among potential WNBA title contenders by starting its two-game road swing with an 87-84 victory at Las Vegas on Friday night. It was just their second win in seven tries against the top four in the league and their first in five road games.
Courtney Vandersloot, Diamond DeShields, and Stefanie Dolson scored 16 points apiece, and Vandersloot had 13 assists as she moved into sixth place on the league's all-time list with 1,588. The All-Star point guard also sealed the victory with two late free throws as Chicago pushed its winning streak to three games and has won seven of eight overall.
"In the third quarter, they tried to make it a W-Slam third quarter," Sky coach James Wade said as he addressed his team post-game, "but we stuck through adversity. I appreciate the energy off the bench. The energy was so good."
Vandersloot has recorded double-doubles in points and assists three times during that eight-game run and has registered at least eight assists in every contest. The WNBA's runaway leader in the category at 8.8 per contest, Vandersloot has a 3.82 assist-to-turnover ration during Chicago's surge - a noticeable uptick from her season mark of 2.82.
The challenge for the Sparks will be to contain Vandersloot without Williams, who helped limit the Sky point guard to six points and seven assists with four turnovers in that rout at home in June. Williams also had 19 points to lead five Los Angeles players in double figures, and the Sparks limited Chicago to 33.3 percent shooting.
The teams meet again in Chicago on Friday night.