It’s crunch time in the WNBA, and the Seattle Storm have received the memo. On Tuesday against the eight-seed Phoenix Mercury, the Storm beat the Mercury on their Talking Stick Resort Arena floor to end the season series with a split and move up into a sixth-place tie in the standings with the Minnesota Lynx. Two days later, they get to do it all over again — still on the road, but this time against the Los Angeles Sparks.
The Sparks are in third place but share a 20-12 tie with the Aces, who are fourth. To stay third, L.A. needs a win against the defending champion Storm who are playing with surging confidence.
Last time out, the Sparks secured a 10-point win over the Atlanta Dream on Tuesday to increase their stellar Staples Center record to 13-2. Although they’ve won their last two games, including Tuesday’s sixth-seed claiming victory over Phoenix, Seattle’s 6-9 road record this season — and L.A.’s second-best home record in the league — to the edge to Derek Fisher’s team.
In the night’s second game, the fourth-place Las Vegas Aces are nipping at the Sparks’ heels and they should clinch a solid win against the last-place Dream on the road. If both the Aces and Sparks win, they maintain tie records, but with the Sparks holding the tiebreaker and, therefore, remaining in third place (with the Aces in fourth). But if the Aces win and the Sparks lose, the will overtake the Sparks for third place.
Both games are available on CBS Sports Network.
Here are the game times and keys to the matchups:
Las Vegas Aces (20-12) at Atlanta Dream (7-25)
When: Thursday, Sept. 5, at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA
How to watch: CBS Sports Network
Keys to the matchup: Dearica Hamby remains underrated for contributions to this team. Her hustle on both ends of the floor never falters. When starters like A’ja Wilson and Liz Cambage are double-teamed or triple-teamed, Hamby establishes herself as a weapon on offense. When opponents seek easy baskets, Hamby crushes their efforts. Kelsey Plum, meanwhile, has had intermittent success this season as well as throughout her career. But her 20-point game over the weekend showed a glimpse into her capabilities. If she has picked the final week of the regular season, heading into the playoffs, to inch closer toward her potential, the Aces will be better for it. Although the Dream have only themselves and pride to play for, the Aces should expect them to do just that. Atlanta may be last in the standings, but its players won’t roll over for anyone and have given higher-placed teams fits this season.
Seattle Storm (20-12) at Los Angeles Sparks (17-15)
When: Thursday, Sept. 5, at 10:00 p.m. ET
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
How to watch: CBS Sports Network
Keys to the matchup: While Nneka Ogwumike has been out with an unspecified illness, her sister, Chiney Ogwumike, and Candace Parker have filled in the gaps for L.A. double-doubles in points and rebounds. Seattle, meanwhile, continues to see elevated play from Jordin Canada, whose speed at getting to the rim has given the Storm a pace that is hard for other teams to contend with. Natasha Howard and Riquna Williams have had remarkable seasons for the Storm and Sparks, respectively, so look for them to make hard-nosed contributions to help their teams win.