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Preview: Aces look to keep cruising against listless Sparks Thursday night

Las Vegas can win three in a row for the first time all season, but they’ll have to defeat a Los Angeles team at home that’s desperate for a win.

Kayla McBride (center) and A’ja Wilson (left) combined for 41 points in the Aces’ 83-70 win over the Sparks on May 26.
Courtesy of Las Vegas Aces via Twitter

When the Aces and Sparks met in Las Vegas to open their seasons back on May 26, it was less of the showdown the rosters might have suggested, and more of a battle for early relevancy between two teams barely on either side of the 2018 playoffs cutoff line. Would the Aces live up to their championship favorites status questionably bestowed upon them by the GMs? And even if they seemed to do so in this game, would it really matter?

Las Vegas would go on to beat Los Angeles 83-70. Right after that, the Aces lost their next two games, and the Sparks won their next two games. Suddenly, the Aces’ straightforward win looked pretty suspicious — as in, of course they won at home, or, winning without Liz Cambage was definitely a fluke, or, they wouldn’t have stood a chance if Candace Parker had been playing, and so on — while for LA, order seemed to be restored to the universe.

But ever since then, things have gone back in the direction of that first meeting. The Aces now sit in a third-place tie with Chicago, while the Sparks are hanging out on the playoffs fringe in eighth place. With three more meetings to go between these teams, including tonight, there’s time yet for that promised star-studded showdown. After all, Parker and Cambage are back! ... and ... well, we’ll see.

No matter what each team has been up to individually since May 26, there’s no doubt that the rosters will look even more different tonight. Does that simply mean the Aces will run away with the game again, LA having established itself as a team not worthy of this level of hype in 2019, or can the Sparks make it competitive at home?

Here’s how to follow tonight’s game and find out:

Game information

Las Vegas Aces (6-4) vs. Los Angeles Sparks (4-6)

When: Thursday, June 27, at 10:30 p.m. ET

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

How to watch: CBS Sports Network, Spectrum SportsNet (LA-area TV)

Keys to the matchup: Which stars will be “on” tonight? Unfortunately for the Sparks, their go-to scorer in these teams’ first meeting, Maria Vadeeva, is away at EuroBasket Women this time (and in fact hasn’t played for the Sparks at all since then). But Candace Parker is back, Nneka Ogwumike has been reliably herself and Chiney Ogwumike can certainly improve on her two-point performance from that first game. The Aces, meanwhile, have four scorers averaging in double figures — A’ja Wilson, Kayla McBride, Liz Cambage and Dearica Hamby — each of whom has shown that they can take over a game if need be. If there’s a time for Los Angeles to figure out how to put together all the talent they have and break a four-game losing streak, it’s tonight. If they can’t, this looks like another easy victory for Las Vegas.