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Previews: Sparks looking for another team effort, Storm end six-day hiatus

The Los Angeles Sparks and Seattle Storm face the bottom two teams in the league in the Indiana Fever and New York Liberty, respectively, with hopes of continuing their winning ways.

Phoenix Mercury v Los Angeles Sparks
The Los Angeles Sparks had reason to smile on Wednesday. Can they start a win streak Friday night?
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Sparks (3-5) were able to stop the bleeding on Wednesday, defeating a Phoenix Mercury team (2-5) that was also desperate for a win due to also having high expectations. That snapped a five-game losing streak and put the Sparks in the playoff picture.

Katie Lou Samuelson scored a career-high 17 points (4-of-5 from three), while Lexie Brown was 4-of-5 from the field and 2-of-2 from three to continue her blistering start to the season. She is fourth in the league with a field goal percentage of 56.8.

Highlights: Katie Lou Samuelson

We’ll see if those two can continue to complement Nneka Ogwumike and Liz Cambage when LA takes on the Indiana Fever in Indianapolis Friday night at 7 p.m. ET. The Fever will be led by Carlos Knox in his first game as a WNBA head coach. The Fever fired Marianne Stanley after a 2-7 start even though they were without No. 2 pick NaLyssa Smith for four of those losses and without Bria Hartley the entire time. The Fever have been competitive in all but two games this year.

In a second game Friday night, at 10 p.m. ET, the Seattle Storm (3-3) will look to move above .500 when they host the 1-5 New York Liberty. Seattle has won both games since the return of Breanna Stewart from health and safety protocols and is looking to live up to their extremely high expectations. They want to make their three-game losing streak a very distant memory.

Meanwhile, nothing is going right for the Liberty and they are dealing with the absence of star Betnijah Laney (knee). They are also without starter Jocelyn Willoughby (6.8 points per game) and bench players DiDi Richards and Lorela Cubaj.


Game information

Los Angeles Sparks (3-5) vs. Indiana Fever (2-7)

When: Friday, May 27 at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis, IN

How to watch: Twitter or Facebook.com/IndianaFever or Spectrum Sportsnet

Key to the matchup: Can the Fever make a lot more threes than the Sparks? It might be the best path to their third win. The Sparks are dead last in the league in both threes made per game (5.1) and threes allowed per game (9.6). The Fever make 7.3 at 33.8 percent (percentage is seventh) and allow 6.4. If LA has a particularly bad night in this department and Indiana has a particularly good one, there could be a difference greater than five, which would be a huge advantage for the Fever. They’ll likely need it with the Sparks boasting a much better field goal percentage (45.8 to 40.9).

The Sparks are the slightly better team in the standings, but don’t overlook the Fever, who have more than one advantage. They are also plus 6.3 over LA in rebounding margin. (+4.7 offensive). Of course, how good they are are on the boards will likely depend on whether Smith is good to go and she is listed as questionable with a sprained ankle.

Where the Sparks will have a key advantage is at the charity stripe. Indiana is second-to-last in free throw attempts allowed per game (23.9) and LA is fourth in getting to the line (20.4). Meanwhile the Fever average 18 FTA and the Sparks allow 18.5. Once it gets to the line, LA outshoots Indiana 81 percent to 74.1 percent.

Sparks injury report: Kristi Toliver (NWT; partial season suspension), Rae Burrell (NWT; knee)

Fever injury report: NaLyssa Smith (questionable; right ankle), Bria Hartley (out; left hamstring)

New York Liberty (1-5) vs. Seattle Storm (3-3)

When: Friday, May 27 at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, WA

How to watch: Fox13+/Amazon Prime - Seattle or YES or NBA TV Canada

Key to the matchup: Rebounding. The Storm are plus-1.5 on the offensive glass, but minus-6.2 on the defensive end. That gives them a big advantage over the Liberty on the offensive glass (+5.3), but a disadvantage on the defensive glass (-2.5). If the Storm can focus on this weakness they have and put an end to New York possessions, they will be in great shape as they already have a huge advantage in turnover margin (+3.7 overall and +7.7 compared to the Liberty).

From the Liberty’s perspective, the focus has to be on defensive discipline (not fouling). They allowed 33 free throw attempts in their last game and head coach Sandy Brondello really harped on that in the postgame press conference. They send teams to the line more than anyone (25.2 attempts per game) but are luckily facing a Storm team that gets to the line the least (14.5). The bad news is that Seattle is first at keeping teams off the line (13.7) and New York is second-to-last at getting there (16.3), making what the Liberty do on defense all the more important.

Also of note, the Storm are (embarrassingly by the their standards) last in the league in field goal percentage (39.9), so they’ll want to clean that up.

Liberty injury report: Lorela Cubaj (out; concussion protocol), Betnijah Laney (out; right knee), DiDi Richards (out; right hamstring). Jocelyn Willoughby (out; left knee)

Storm injury report: Mercedes Russell (out; non-basketball injury), Stephanie Talbot (out; health and safety protocols)

Feature: Breanna Stewart’s letter to Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu