As long as the Los Angeles Sparks are playing at home, they should be fine.
Trying to maintain their spot among the top four teams in the WNBA standings, the Sparks aim for a 13th consecutive home victory Thursday night against a Seattle Storm club that also has an eye on positioning for the playoffs.
Los Angeles (20-12) has split its last four games but managed to move into third place in the league standings after Tuesday's 70-60 home victory over Atlanta. While the top two teams in the "W" will get byes into the semifinals, seeds No. 3 and No. 4 earn byes into the second round.
The Sparks, 13-2 at home where they last lost June 18 to Washington, play their final two games of the regular season at Staples Center. Though it's not yet in the same ballpark of the franchise-record 28-game home winning streak that spanned the 2000, 2001 and 2002 seasons, continued success at Staples gives L.A. opportunity to build up plenty of momentum heading into the playoffs.
It also showed some character Tuesday while being able to overcome an 11-point first-quarter deficit against an Atlanta team that's been eliminated from the playoff race for some time.
"We've been really good at home, we've gotten separation from teams," Derek Fisher, who became the ninth rookie coach in WNBA history to win 20 games, said via the Sparks' official Facebook page. "There's a level of, like, grittiness and toughness that you have to have to win in the postseason ... I liked that about (Tuesday's) game. We just had to find a way."
With Nneka Ogwumike out because of an illness, Candace Parker had 21 points with 11 rebounds and Chiney Ogwumike added 17 and 10 boards for the Sparks, who kept the Dream to 31.1 percent shooting and held a 47-33 advantage on the glass.
It's uncertain if Nneka Ogwumike will be ready to go Thursday. Parker, meanwhile, has averaged 13.2 points in her last five contests.
Parker scored 21 and Ogwumike added 13 with 10 boards as L.A. evened the season series versus Seattle with an 83-75 home victory on Aug. 4.
The Storm (17-15) are currently tied with Minnesota in the standings, but sit sixth based on owning the tiebreaker over the Lynx. The Nos. 5 and 6 seeds will host first-round playoff games.
Seattle got 22 points and 12 rebounds from star Natasha Howard as it shot 45.9 percent to win a second straight contest, 82-70 at Phoenix on Tuesday. Howard had 20 with nine rebounds in an 84-62 home win over the Sparks on June 21, but was limited to 13 points in last month's loss at L.A.
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