Chasing top spot, Sparks host Stars

Nneka Ogwumike said recently she wants the WNBA to have the same worldwide appeal as its NBA partners.

But for now, Ogwumike and her Los Angeles Sparks teammates have their eyes on something else — a second straight championship.

“Sometimes I feel like the WNBA puts (itself) in a box, and we need to jump outside of the box,” Ogwumike told the Los Angeles Times. “But I think that’s the fear, is that if we jump outside the box then we’re really going to be, I guess, pushed to the side. But I feel like we behave as if we are pushed to the side already. I don’t think there’s anything to lose.”

The Sparks sit in second place in both the Western Conference and overall league standings as they get set to host the San Antonio Stars on Tuesday night.

Los Angeles is coming off a 115-106 double-overtime win at Chicago. Ogwumike had 32 points, 10 rebounds and four assists and Candace Parker added 29 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

The Sparks are 21-8 heading down the stretch of the regular season, 12-1 at home. Put that 12-1 number next to San Antonio’s 1-13 road and 1-13 conference records and you have to think Los Angeles will be able to take care of business Tuesday night.

However, the Stars have been better since starting the season with 14 straight losses and 16 of the first 17. The overall record sits at 7-23, but they are 7-9 since the winless start.

The Sparks, who are 1 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Lynx atop the standings, have won both games between the teams so far this season — 80-75 in Los Angeles on June 15 and 85-73 in San Antonio on July 28.

Ogwumike comes into this game fifth in the WNBA in scoring (19.1 points) and ninth in rebounding (7.7), while Parker is seventh in rebounding (8.5) and ninth in both points (17.2) and assists (4.3).

Toss in Chelsea Gray, with had 20 points, 10 assists and four steals at Chicago, at sixth in the league in assists (4.4) — and you see a true contender.

The Stars opened their western road trip with a 79-78 loss at Seattle, as Dearica Hamby came off the bench with 19 points and 10 rebounds, Kayla McBride scored 18 points and Kelsey Plum 15 points, five assists and four rebounds.

McBride leads San Antonio in scoring at 15.7 points per game while Isabelle Harrison is the leading rebounder at 6.7.