This was a stretch of the schedule the Los Angeles Sparks pointed to as they struggled through May and June. Seven straight games at home, a time for them to make a move and firm up their grip on a WNBA playoff spot.
The last of those seven games happens Thursday, when the Atlanta Dream come to town for a lunchtime tipoff, local time. The best Los Angeles can do is 4-3. That’s after it stopped Indiana 86-79 Tuesday night, ending a three-game losing streak.
“We need to protect home court,” said guard Brittney Sykes. “We are at an advantage right now cause teams have to come to us.”
The Sparks (11-14) were able to do that against Indiana, thanks to Nneka Ogwumike. She carved up the Fever for 35 points on just 20 shot attempts, helping Los Angeles hit 50 percent of its shots. The Sparks also forced 24 turnovers, offsetting Indiana’s 50.9 percent shooting.
Los Angeles also got a solid game from point guard Jordin Canada, who returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in recent games. Canada compiled 11 points, eight assists and four steals in 31-plus minutes.
Meanwhile, Atlanta (12-14) arrives fresh off perhaps its best win of the year, a 92-76 rout of Las Vegas in the desert. The Dream established a 35-18 first-quarter lead and never really looked back.
Tiffany Hayes erupted for 31 points on just 14 shot attempts, going 4 for 5 from the 3-point line. Rookie Rhyne Howard scored 24, hitting 6 of 9 3-point tries. As a team, Atlanta connected on 15 of 24 3-pointers while earning a 40-29 advantage on the boards.
The Dream also played outstanding defense against the league’s highest-scoring team, holding the Aces to 26-of-71 shooting from the field and 10-of-35 shooting from the 3-point line.
This will be the teams’ second matchup of the year. Atlanta earned a 77-75 win at home over the Sparks on May 11 behind 21 points from Howard.
–Field Level Media