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Preview: Dream hope to stay #2 over Sparks, Aces cling to playoff hopes against Lynx

In other words, it’s another night in the WNBA and anything can happen.

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Kelsey Plum: ballin’, shot callin’.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

This story has been updated with a change to Angel McCoughtry’s injury status.

The 2018 WNBA season gives new meaning to the phrase “every game counts.” The two Thursday night matchups are no different, with three teams seeking better playoff seeding and the other hoping for a miracle to make it into the postseason.

Atlanta Dream (19-10) vs. LA Sparks (18-11)

When: Thursday, August 9 at 7 p.m. ET

Where: McCamish Pavilion, Atlanta | TICKETS

How to watch: NBA TV (nationally) | Fox Sports South (Atlanta)

Injury report: For Atlanta, Damiris Dantas (right ankle) is doubtful and LA had no injuries to report. Angel McCoughtry (left knee) was originally listed as doubtful for Atlanta but she has since been ruled out for the season.

Keys to the clash

  • Last game out, Angel McCoughtry was helped off the court due to what Atlanta Dream Head Coach Nikki Collen hopes is “just a hyperextension.” McCoughtry is doubtful for tonight’s game, which would be a blow to a team on a surge, winning nine of their last 10 games.Her shoes are impossible to fill, but big games from Jessica Breland, Elizabeth Williams, Brittney Sykes or Alex Bentley — to go with whatever magic three-time Player of the Week Tiffany Hayes puts together — can result in a win.
  • LA is rounding out of a cross-country road trip, narrowly escaping New York Wednesday with a one-point win over the Liberty. So LA faces a feisty Dream team for the second game of a back-to-back. But the Sparks bounced back to their winning ways once Nneke Ogwumike returned from illness so the match should be even, with the play of Chelsea Gray likely to be key in an LA win.
  • The series is tied 1-1 with this one being either team’s win.

Playoff picture

Both teams have secured playoff berths so this is about seeding. Atlanta wants to cling to #2, as the Mystics moved to within 0.5 game today after a blowout of the Storm. The Storm are still first in the standings but their loss today brought the Dream to within 3.0 games of first. If the Dream win tonight, they’ll get even closer to the top spot. The Washington Mystics win pushed the Sparks to fourth place — 1 game ahead of the Connecticut and 0.5 game behind the Mystics. It’s a tight squeeze in slots 2-8, with no more than a game separating any two teams. This game matters.

Las Vegas Aces (12-17) vs. Minnesota Lynx (16-13)

When: Thursday, August 9 at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas | TICKETS

How to watch: NBA TV (nationally) | AT&T Sportsnet (Las Vegas)

Injury report: For the Lynx, Rebekkah Brunson (broken nose) is out. For the Aces, Isabelle Harrison (suspension) remains out for the season.

Keys to the clash

  • The Aces enter this game having lost four games in a row, including all games played after their airport grounding forced them to take a forfeit against the Mystics last Friday. But the recent losses do not indicate poor play, as Kelsey Plum has eased into dominant play. Against the Dream on Tuesday, Plum scored 20 points and dished 13 assists for a double-double. It will take more of the same for Las Vegas to get past the defending WNBA champs.
  • The Lynx enter this game having suffered a 20-point blowout against the Dream on August 5 and enjoying a 21-point victory over the Sky on August 7. You win some, you lose some — the motto for Minnesota’s play lately. They’ve won five of their last 10 games and, therefore, have lost the other five. Brunson will be missed for sure, especially on defense, but if Maya Moore or Sylvia Fowles have big scoring games they can get past the Aces.
  • The season series is split, 1-1. Tonight’s action decides the winner.

Playoff picture

The Aces are currently out of playoff contention, a full two games behind the Dallas Wings. To even have a chance at a post season, a win tonight is a must. The Wings occupy the eighth spot in the standings have lost their last six games. But Las Vegas cannot count on the Wings losing out for the a shot at their spot. The Lynx, meanwhile, enter this game in sixth place, one game behind the Connecticut Sun with the Phoenix Mercury on the Lynx’s heels just 0.5 game back.