Sparks host Dream with chance to catch rival Lynx (Aug 31, 2017)

BY AP • August 31, 2017

The Los Angeles Sparks have been looking up at the Minnesota Lynx in the league standings for much of the year. But heading into the final weekend of the regular season, they have a chance to catch their rivals and perhaps overtake them for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

The Sparks tip off their final two-game stretch of the regular season Friday, when the Atlanta Dream visits Staples Center.

Los Angeles trails the Lynx by one game, but owns the head-to-head tiebreaker, thanks to last week's 78-67 victory over Minnesota.

The Dream trail the Seattle Storm by two games with two games to play for the final playoff spot. Atlanta needs to win out and get some help from the Storm and the Chicago Sky to stay in the postseason.

Atlanta had to win back-to-back games just to get into this position, including a 79-74 overtime win over the Indiana Fever on Saturday.

"You always want to end the season playing well whether you make the playoffs or not," Atlanta coach Michael Cooper said after the win over Indiana. "Our playoff chances are still pretty good. So, for us to come out and play hard and play well and never give up says a lot about this team."

Sparks center Candice Parker led Los Angeles with 24 points and 10 rebounds against Minnesota on Sunday. It was the Sparks' fifth straight win.

"I hope things are clicking going into playoffs," Parker told reporters after the win over the Lynx. "I know that I have to be aggressive and assertive, and I'm able to do that now. I'm healthy, moving well, and I feel good."

The Sparks can finish no worse than the second seed and will close out the regular season against the Connecticut Sun on Sunday. The Lynx finish the season against Chicago and Washington on Friday and Sunday, respectively.

Los Angeles shouldn't look past the Dream, though. The teams split their two previous meetings this season, and Atlanta has won three of four against Los Angeles overall.

Tiffany Hayes, Atlanta's leading scorer, had 24 points, including a clutch, late free throw, in the Dream's 75-73 victory over Los Angeles on May 27.

The Sparks got revenge, behind 24 points from Parker, in an 85-76 win over the Dream on June 30.

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