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Preview: Can Candace Parker spark a win for L.A. over the Mystics?

The Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks are both coming off losses in their most recent outings and they each carry a 4-3 record into the contest. Will the return of the real CP3 get L.A. back into the win column?

Can Elena Delle Donne (right) and the Mystics thwart Candace Parker’s return for the Sparks?
The Washington Post/Getty Images

In their most recent outing, the Los Angeles Sparks came up short against a New York Liberty team that, thus far, demonstrated an inability to close games in the win column. But the 98-92 victory was New York’s thanks to 37 points from Amanda Zahui B and 26 from Kia Nurse.

The loss caught the Sparks off guard because they had demolished the Phoenix Mercury on their home floor, 85-68, prior to the meeting with New York. It was teachable moment for the still-adjusting Sparks, who may have underestimated the Liberty’s dangerous shooters taken their struggles for granted.

After the loss, coach Derek Fisher said:

(It’s about) continuing to understand that every game is different. You can’t come into a game assuming anything.

If the Sparks didn’t learn that lesson in their last game, veteran Candace Parker will make sure the point is clear when she returns to the lineup tonight.

The Mystics are coming off a loss, too, having come up short at home against the Storm on Friday, 74-71. Two players were in double figures for Washington: Elena Delle Donne (19 points) and Aerial Powers (16 points, off the bench).

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who Mystics players predicted will have a breakout season, was limited to four points and -18 in plus/minus. More will be needed from her if Washington hopes to get past the Sparks. But, even more, the team needs Kristi Toliver to find her range. Toliver started the season averaging 13.4 points through five games but hasn’t scored more than five points in the team’s last two contests.

On June 11, Toliver shot a dreary 2-of-11 from the field and 0-of-5 from three-point range.

To steady the team and get a win tonight, the Sparks have CP3, who can read the floor as good as any other future Hall of Famer. The question for the Mystics, however, will be: Who will lift the team on offense? Tianna Hawkins and Powers did great things off the bench recently. If the starters struggle to get going, will Washington’s bench save the day?

No matter the outcome, the battle between Delle Donne and Parker will be worth the cost of admission.

Washington Mystics (4-3) at Los Angeles Sparks (4-3)

When: Tuesday, June 18, at 10:30 p.m. ET

Where: Staples Center | Los Angeles, CA | TICKETS

How to watch: CBS Sports Network, Spectrum SportsNet, Monumental

Keys to the matchup: The Sparks’ success will be determined by how smoothly Candace Parker is reintegrated into the lineup after missing most of the season so far (albeit just seven games). In addition to returning from injury, she is returning to a team missing old faces (Essence Carson to Phoenix Mercury, Odyssey Sims to Minnesota Lynx) and featuring new ones (Chiney Ogwumike to Connecticut Sun).

For the Mystics, the keys to victory will be: 1) overcoming time-zone change and travel, 2) getting double-digit production out of more than two players and 3) battling harder on the boards — the Mystics were out-rebounded against Seattle, 40-30, and second-chance scoring opportunities should help their cause.