It is Monday, and there is still more basketball to be played.
Tonight the Sparks host the Mystics at 7:30 PM Pacific and local time at Staples Center. In the east coast, that's at 10:30 PM. Don't groan too much, because a 7:00 home game in the East, is at 4 PM out west, when folks are still working.
Washington Mystics (2-5) at LA Sparks (7-3)
For the Sparks, they start a two game homestand against the two worst teams in the league, starting tonight with DC, and another match on Wednesday against the Shock. On Saturday, they will travel to Phoenix to play the Mercury so really, they're playing the worst three teams in the league based on records alone. If you're the Sparks, you want to win all three of these games to create more separation between the top teams (LA and Minny) and the rest of the pack for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
For the Mystics, after watching all seven of their games, it appears that they don't mind playing "close to" their opponents, meaning that they want to try to steal some wins by keeping the score close if at all possible. Given that only one game, their first was decided by over 10 points, this is what fuels their optimism as a team, considering that they played a very wide range of teams from the top to bottom of the hierarchy. The Mystics are on a three game road trip out west and would like to see if they can steal one tonight, and hopefully take advantage of some down Mercury and Storm teams later on.
Obviously, there's another big storyline for this game. Sparks guard Alana Beard, a lifelong Mystic up to this point, now faces her former team. In addition, Marissa Coleman and Delisha Milton Jones also wore a Mystics uniform before showing up in LA. Current Mystics Natasha Lacy and Noelle Quinn are former Sparks. There could very well be some "agendas" tonight as players want to show some nasty on their former teams.
To me, the ex factor tonight isn't on whether they can keep Alana, Marissa, and Kristi (a Terp alumna) from scoring 20 points each. If they do, it is likely because of another player. The Mystics' defense on multipurpose player Candace Parker will be key to stopping that. They have been pretty good in terms of keeping superstars in check without having a bonafide superstar of their own, but she is playing her best ball ever and is the best player the Mystics have faced all year. More importantly, the Mystics offense must be efficient for 40 minutes. On Friday, they weren't and got lucky. Tonight, shooting 37% probably won't fly when Kristi, Alana, Delisha, Marissa, and Candace won't hesitate to make shots, and in particular, threes, and that will likely happen even if the Mystics' defense is good tonight.
So that's it.
If you're east, enjoy a late night basketball game. If you're out west, take pride in the fact that you probably didn't have to take off work early to enjoy this game.