The Los Angeles Sparks are playing their best basketball of the season, having won four straight games to climb into second place in the league standings.
But the defending champions are potentially heading into an emotional buzz saw on Saturday when they travel to face the Indiana Fever.
The Fever will be retiring the No. 24 jersey of all-time great Tamika Catchings at halftime of Saturday’s game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. A 10-time WNBA All-Star and future Hall of Famer, Catchings retired after last season as the league’s all-time leader in rebounds and No. 2 in career points (since dropped to third). She was the face of the Indiana franchise for more than a decade.
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“It was a journey and a grind every single year starting in 2002,” Catchings told FOX 59, a local television affiliate.
The Fever would like to honor the franchise’s greatest player with a third straight win, but it won’t be easy.
The Sparks (8-3) roll into Indianapolis on their season-long win streak, spurred by star forward Candace Parker. The reigning Western Conference Player of the Week, Parker scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Los Angeles’ 90-59 blowout win over the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday. It was the 19th time in her career that Parker has been named player of the week.
The Fever (6-6) are coming off their first road win of the season, a 91-79 come-from-behind victory at Chicago. Indiana overcame a 10-point deficit in the second half. Tiffany Mitchell scored a season-high 19 points to lead the comeback, and the Fever forced 18 turnovers, while committing only four.
Indiana beat Los Angeles 93-90 early in the season, rallying back from a 14-point halftime deficit, behind a big game from guard Marissa Coleman. Coleman hit five 3-pointers and finished with 18 points.
The Fever outscored the Sparks 27-10 in the third quarter and held on in the fourth quarter.
All five Los Angeles starters finished in double figures in the first meeting with the Fever this season, led by 24 points from Nneka Ogwumike. But the Sparks’ bench was outscored 31-4 by the Fever reserves.
Indiana has won two of the last three meeting with the Sparks.