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Sky brace for defending champion Sparks

The Chicago Sky get to measure their recent improvement against one of the WNBA's best teams Friday.

Chicago (11-16) return from an eight-day layoff to host the defending champion Los Angeles Sparks (20-8) at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., in the third and final meeting of the season.

The Sky is coming off a 94-74 victory over San Antonio on Aug. 10 as Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley scored 21 and 17 points, respectively.

The victory was the third straight for Chicago since a late July slump and moved the Sky to within a half-game of the eighth and final WNBA playoff berth behind Seattle. The Storm visits the Sky on Sunday.

"We knew that they're trying to fight to still make the playoffs and so are we," Quigley said. "So we really wanted to prove the point that we want to be in the playoffs."

Los Angeles and Chicago split two previous meetings. The Sparks claimed a 79-70 decision on June 6 while the Sky bounced back to take an 82-80 last-second victory July 20 at the Staples Center.

"This is a good time to be playing really good basketball," Vandersloot said. "I think early in the season, we knew that with our slow start, it was really important to be playing this type of basketball in August. Here's August, the playoffs are right at our fingertips."

Friday's game is an annual homecoming for Sparks star Candace Parker, the Chicago-area native who starred at Naperville Central (Ill.) High School and then went on to win NCAA championships at Tennessee and Olympic gold medals for the United States.

Los Angeles is coming off a 95-62 rout of Washington on Wednesday as Parker scored 21 points.

Odyssey Sims had 18 points, seven assists and four steals and Nneka Ogwumike also had 18 points. Parker and Ogwumike combined to hit 17 of 23 field goals.

"We just have so many different weapons and so much athleticism on the floor," Parker said. "And so many people who are able to spread the floor."

The Sparks -- 2-2 on their five-game road trip -- are second in the WNBA, two games behind Minnesota. Los Angeles returns home to meet San Antonio on Tuesday.

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