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Preview: First-place Mystics will try to stay on top against third-place Sparks in tonight’s packed game slate

There are five games on Tuesday night. The main event is the battle between the first-place Washington Mystics and the third-place Los Angeles Sparks. All of the action is available on national TV or streaming.

Washington Mystics v Los Angeles Sparks
With the opportunity to finish the season series at home, can Elena Delle Donne (right) and the Washington Mystics fend off Candace Parker and the Los Angeles Sparks?
Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

Tuesday night’s third and final meeting between the first-place Washington Mystics and third-place Los Angeles Sparks won’t change the standings between those two teams. But with the top five teams all within three games of each other, either result will have meaningful implications.

With 10 teams in action, including the top five teams, there’s potential for a lot of movement throughout the standings. For the Mystics, the task is simple: Win and stay in first place because a loss, combined with a Connecticut Sun win, will put the Mystics back into a tie for first place, one where the Sun own the tiebreaker.

The Sparks can’t crack the top two with a win against the Mystics, but at just two and a half games out of first place, a win would put pressure on the Mystics and Sun. But Los Angeles will still want to be vigilant, as they’re tied with the Las Vegas Aces and just a half-game ahead of the fifth-place Chicago Sky.

As for the matchup itself? It’s really anyone’s game. Both prior meetings between the Sparks and Mystics have been in Los Angeles, with the Mystics winning the first 81-52 and the Sparks taking the second 98-81.

The Mystics don’t have the best home record, at 11-3, but in two of those losses — the two games that immediately followed the aforementioned loss to the Sparks — Elena Delle Donne did not play following a facial injury.

Here’s what to look out for in all five of tonight’s games, plus how to watch:

Game information

Las Vegas Aces (19-11) vs. Indiana Fever (10-19)

When: Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

How to watch: ESPN3, WNBA League Pass, WNDY

Keys to the matchup: The Fever are mathematically still in the playoffs race, but they’ll need a big win against a team they’ve already lost to twice to keep their hopes alive. Both games were close, one a five-point loss and the other a three-point loss, and both featured solid outings from the usual suspects. To grab a win here, the Fever will need to keep the game close, including staying strong offensively in the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter of each prior meeting, Indiana scored just 13 points and 10 points, respectively, giving Las Vegas the opportunity to grab the lead (and the win) as a result.

Phoenix Mercury (13-15) vs. New York Liberty (9-20)

When: Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Westchester County Center, White Plains, NY

How to watch: ESPN3, WNBA League Pass, YES Network, SN1

Keys to the matchup: One team’s two-game losing streak will end — but who wants it more? The Mercury have been playing some rather uninspired basketball lately, their 3.5-game lead on the ninth-place Fever feeling pretty large with so few games to go. Meanwhile, the Liberty must win this game to avoid elimination from playoff contention. After being the team that let the already-eliminated Atlanta Dream snap a 12-game losing streak and then getting routed by the Mystics, it seems the Liberty have very little left in the tank.

Los Angeles Sparks (18-10) vs. Washington Mystics (21-8)

When: Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington, DC

How to watch: ESPN2, NBA TV Canada

Keys to the matchup: Can the Mystics keep cruising in Kristi Toliver’s absence? They’ve won five of their last six games without her, with only one of the wins within 10 points. That said, they haven’t really faced the kind of competition they’ll have to deal with in the Sparks. Home-court advantage might be what gets Washington through this, should they keep their foot on the gas and deliver another rout. But if things get close, the Sparks may come away with a huge late-season win.

Chicago Sky (18-11) vs. Minnesota Lynx (15-15)

When: Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

How to watch: ESPN3, WNBA League Pass, FOX Sports GO (Minnesota)

Keys to the matchup: Facing another “win and you’re in” the playoffs situation, the Lynx have a lot to play for tonight. With a 21-point beatdown of the Aces in their immediate past, they should feel confident about playing another good team on their home floor. But the Sky are coming in with momentum, too — two road wins and a home victory against the Mystics making up their three-game winning streak. Astou Ndour will be the player to watch for Chicago — her outings in those wins have been solid in Jantel Lavender’s absence. But with the Lynx regularly getting consistent production from at least four of their starting five, it’ll take a team effort from the Sky to match that output.

Connecticut Sun (20-9) vs. Seattle Storm (15-14)

When: Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Alaska Airlines Arena, Seattle, WA

How to watch: Twitter, JOEtv

Keys to the matchup: Both teams were humbled in their last outings, with the Sun seeing a four-game winning streak end at the Sparks and the Storm falling to the Fever. Connecticut has only had one instance this season where a loss has come by itself — interestingly, also against Los Angeles. But Seattle’s inconsistency of late (having lost three of the last four) could spell trouble for them. The Sun have the 2-0 season series advantage, though both wins came at home where the Sun are a league-best 14-1. Really, this game comes down to motivation: Will the second-place Sun power to a win with the No. 1 overall seed so close? Or can the sixth-place Storm eke out a victory as they see the slim chance of significantly altering their playoff seeding on the horizon?