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Preview: Los Angeles Sparks shoot for success against Las Vegas Aces

The Los Angeles Sparks’ new era is off to a good start, but they’ll face a much stiffer test Thursday night when they host the reigning WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces in a Commissioner’s Cup matchup. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury each play for their first win of the 2023 season.

Los Angeles Sparks v Las Vegas Aces
Reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player A’ja Wilson (left) averaged 27 points per game against Nneka Ogwumike (right) and the Los Angeles Sparks last season.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The WNBA will play a pair of Commissioner’s Cup games Thursday night; the Las Vegas Aces (1-0) take on the Los Angeles Sparks (1-0) and the Minnesota Lynx (0-2) play the Phoenix Mercury (0-2). The Aces and Sparks will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network, while the Lynx and Mercury can be watched via Amazon Prime Video. Both games will tip-off at 10 p.m. ET.

Under new head coach Curt Miller, the Sparks got off to an impressive start to their season, handily defeating the Mercury at home behind their starting frontcourt of Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, who combined to record 32 points and 11 rebounds. The Sparks also got key contributions from guards Lexie Brown, Zia Cooke and Karlie Samuelson — each of whom hit multiple 3-pointers — and turned the ball over just six times.

Los Angeles will need all of that and more on Thursday when it hosts the defending WNBA champion Aces, a team the Sparks have struggled mightily against in recent years. In fact, the Sparks have not beaten the Aces since 2019 (Across the Timeline), and last season it was a particularly one-sided matchup, with Las Vegas outscoring Los Angeles by 21.1 points per 100 possessions in four Aces wins.

The Aces treated the Seattle Storm to a similar beatdown in their 2023 opener, defeating the Storm by 41 points in the most lopsided result of the season thus far. Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum led the way with 23 points apiece, while reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson chipped in a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds. In her highly-anticipated Aces debut, Candace Parker recorded 12 points, five assists, and three blocks in 23 minutes of play, while the team as a whole hit 11-of-18 3-pointers and outrebounded Seattle 50-32.

It was a statement made to the rest of the WNBA: The Aces are just as good as last season, if not better, and are ready to defend their title. On Thursday, the new-look Sparks will have their work cut out for them — particularly on the defensive end of the court, as they try to corral the Aces’ unmatched levels of offensive playmaking.

Elsewhere, both the Mercury and Lynx have gotten off to slow starts to the season, though they’re at very different stages in their respective franchise trajectories. Having welcomed Brittney Griner back to professional basketball, Phoenix would like nothing more than to squeeze out one more winning season during the twilight of Diana Taurasi’s career, but injuries and other absences have hampered the team’s depth and its ability to put together consistent lineups.

The Lynx, on the other hand, are in full-fledged rebuild mode, with forward Napheesa Collier and rookie wing Diamond Miller their two building blocks. Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve hasn’t exactly kept secret that the Lynx would rather develop players for the future than try to compete for a playoff appearance, and as such, expect her team’s rotations to be volatile for the first portion of the 2023 WNBA season.

Game information

Las Vegas Aces (1-0) vs. Los Angeles Sparks (1-0)

When: 10:00 p.m. ET

Where: Arena in Los Angeles, CA

How to watch: CBS Sports Network, Silver State Sports & Entertainment Network

Aces injury report: Riquna Williams (out; back)

Sparks injury report: Jasmine Thomas (out; knee), Azurá Stevens (out; back), Katie Lou Samuelson (out; pregnancy)

Minnesota Lynx (0-2) vs. Phoenix Mercury (0-2)

When: 10:00 p.m. ET

Where: Footprint Center in Phoenix, AZ

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video, AZ Family 3TV, AZ Family Sports Network 44, Bally Sports North

Lynx injury report: Natalie Achonwa (not with team; maternity leave)

Mercury injury report: Shey Peddy (out; Achilles), Megan Gustafson (out; foot), Skylar Diggins-Smith (not with team; maternity leave)