The buzzer sounded at 9:40pm Tuesday night in Los Angeles, California. With the first round 75-68 win over Minnesota under their belts, it was time for the Sparks to prepare for round two.
They arrived at LAX at 6:30am Wednesday morning to head back to the east coast to face the Washington Mystics, a place they had just been less than a week earlier.
The Los Angeles Sparks and Washington Mystics have squared off three times so far this season with the Mystics holding a 2-1 advantage. Their fourth meeting, which will be held at George Washington University, is another win-or-go-home scenario in the second round of the WNBA playoffs.
Washington (22-12) finished third overall in the league, earning themselves a first-round bye. Offensively they average 81.4 points per game which ranks them in the top five for offensive production. Elena Delle Donne, who was also named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month in August, leads the Mystics in scoring at 20.7 points per game.
On the flip side, Los Angeles (19-15) is the top defensive team in the league, allowing just 77 points to their opponents in the regular season. The omen on them to attempt to slow down the Mystics offense and generate enough themselves. They will need to overcome a Mystics team looking to push the pace and take advantage of the Sparks schedule.
The Sparks will look to the play of Chelsea Gray coming off of a red-hot performance against the Lynx where she poured in 26 points. Gray has proven to have that "clutch-gene" and will need to continue to for LA if they want to be successful in the playoffs.
-Nneka Ogwumike laced em up and took on the Lynx, finished with 19 points in 36 minutes of play….. all with mono. According to the injury report prior to the meeting with Washington, Ogqumike was not listed at all — a good sign assuming she will be suited up and good to go.
— Los Angeles Sparks (@LA_Sparks) August 22, 2018
-Look out for the always entertaining matchup between Candace Parker and Elena Delle Donne. These long, hybrid-like players are the best in the game. They're capable of playing any position on the floor and are both capable of a complete takeover. Parker was ill when the Sparks played the Lynx in round one. With limited minutes and production, she finished with just two points.
-Natasha Cloud has been a key factor for Washington this season, kind of like their own "X Factor" and engine that makes the team go. In their last meeting, less than a week ago, Cloud hit a fadeaway jumper in the lane as time expired to take down the Sparks. Her heroics and confident play will be needed once again tonight. Lets relive it again shall we?
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 18, 2018
There is no doubt Washington holds the advantage with rest and home court advantage (well, kind of). A travel-weary Sparks team who's flown coast-to-coast multiple times in the last week is a bit troubling. The Sparks' greatest battle will be their own minds in this matchup. I predict a highly competitive game, very intense with some tremendous performances on both teams. But the Mystics have the edge and will take this within the final moments.