The Los Angeles Sparks have been dealing with adversity throughout the season.
Heading into their biggest game of the year, they’ve been dealt another major blow.
The Sparks are unsure of the status of three-time All-Star Nneka Ogwumike for Tuesday night’s decisive Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the top-seeded Minnesota Lynx.
Ogwumike left in the third quarter of Sunday’s 81-71 win with a neck strain after she was struck in a tangle of players in the paint.
”She wasn’t feeling very good, obviously,” coach Brian Agler said. ”I don’t know what the status will be on Tuesday with her.”
If Ogwumike, second on the team with 16.5 points and 7.3 rebounds, can’t play, it would just be the latest obstacle for the Sparks, who did not have Candace Parker and other key players to start this season and began 2-12.
Facing elimination Sunday, Parker carried Los Angeles to its first playoff win in two years, finishing with 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Rookie Ana Dabovic had a career-high 19 points for the Sparks, who led by 22 in the second quarter.
”You never want to be in a situation where you’re down by that much on the road against a team that’s fighting for a championship like we are,” Minnesota’s Maya Moore said. ”We didn’t hang our head. We didn’t give up. We tried to still make plays. But with that big of a hole, it’s hard. It hard mentally. It’s hard emotionally to not get frustrated.”
The Sparks have had plenty to potentially get frustrated about this season – they were forced to move Game 2 to Long Beach State because the Emmy Awards were being held Sunday night near Staples Center – but have not been deterred.
”I think that that’s what so great about our team,” Parker said. ”We’ve been through everything this year – injuries, people coming in and out. We’ve had to fight the whole year. This is something we didn’t really talk about.”
Parker had 16 points and nine rebounds Friday as the Sparks nearly stole the opener, falling 67-65.
Although the Lynx are 17-2 at home in the playoffs – the best home winning percentage for any team the postseason – and have advanced to the last four conference finals, Parker remains confident.
”Minnesota did what they were supposed to do,” Parker said. ”Now we have to do what we are supposed to do."
The Sparks are a win away from advancing to their first conference finals series since 2012 despite having no answer for Moore.
After scoring a playoff career-high 33 points and adding four steals in Game 1, she scored 27 and had another four steals Sunday. Moore has made 22 of 43 shots – 8 of 16 from 3-point range. The rest of the team is 2 of 12 from beyond the arc.
Sylvia Fowles, second on Minnesota with 15.3 points per game, has totaled 15 points in the first two contests.