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Preview: Sparks look to stay alive in playoff chase

The Los Angeles Sparks need a win over the Atlanta Dream to avoid elimination.

Los Angeles Sparks v Minnesota Lynx
Nneka Ogwumike (jersey #30) will look to keep the Sparks’ playoff hopes alive.
Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Sparks (11-19) are on the road Thursday night against the Atlanta Dream (8-22) in what is a must-win game for the Sparks. Los Angeles sits in ninth place, just one game behind the Washington Mystics, and will need win their last two games of the season and get a little help from the Mystics’ opponents in order to make the playoffs.

The Sparks have been quite bad on offense all year but are in playoff contention because of their defense, which was on display in their dominating Sunday victory over the Seattle Storm. The Sparks have the third-best defensive rating in the league and they allow the second-fewest points at 77 per game. However, the offense averages just 72.3 points, which has held the team back.

The Dream are in full rebuild mode after making the WNBA Semifinals in 2018. The suspension of the Chennedy Carter really derailed any chance the Dream had to compete for the lower playoff spots. The Dream are ninth and tenth in the league in scoring offense and defensive rating, respectively.

The Sparks and the Dream played two games in August. Both finished within five-point scoring margins, with the Sparks taking both matchups. Look for the intensity to be heightened as the Sparks play with desperation while the Dream look for an opportunity to knock a team out of playoff contention.

Game information

Atlanta Dream (8-22) vs. Los Angeles Sparks (11-19)

When: Thursday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Gateway Center Arena, College Park, GA

How to watch: Amazon Prime, Bally Sports SE-Atl

Key to the matchup: Courtney Williams is the key offensive player for the Dream, so look for her to dictate the offense. For the Sparks, Nneka Ogwumike is the player to watch. With Kristi Toliver out, Britney Sykes will get likely get the start again. Sykes is a solid scorer and the best ball defender on Los Angeles’ roster.

Sparks injury report: Chiney Ogwumike (out; right knee), Kristi Toliver (out; left hand), Jasmine Walker (out for season; right knee)

Dream injury report: Tianna Hawkins (doubtful; right foot), Candice Dupree (probable; back), Crystal Bradford (out for season; left foot), Chennedy Carter (out; suspended), Cheyenne Parker (out for season; personal)