Just over a month ago, the Los Angeles Sparks owned the WNBA’s worst record. Candace Parker’s return sparked a surge that now has them one win away from a spot in the playoffs, and adding a healthy Nneke Ogwumike could make the sub-.500 club a tough out.
The only team to defeat the Sparks in the past two weeks and the only one which has been hotter is the Tulsa Shock, who go after a seventh consecutive victory Sunday at Staples Center.
Los Angeles was 3-14 after losing at Minnesota on July 29 when Parker made her season debut after sitting out to get 100 percent healthy. The Sparks have since won 10 of 14 to move into the fourth and final playoff position in the Western Conference, and their magic number over fifth-place Seattle is down to one.
Parker has posted 12 double-doubles in the last 13 games, averaging 20.9 points and 10.7 rebounds in her last seven. She had 26 points and 11 boards in Thursday’s 93-91 win over Washington, but maybe the more important performance came from Ogwumike.
The All-Star forward had missed six games due to injury but returned to score 24 points and grab 10 boards in 34 minutes.
Ogwumike has averaged 22.3 points in three meetings with the Shock this year. She had 26 in an 84-57 win at Tulsa on Aug. 6, and she was clearly missed in the most recent meeting as the Sparks fell 76-66 on Aug. 28 despite Parker’s 24 points and 11 rebounds.
While that is Los Angeles’ only loss in six games, the Shock (16-14) have reeled off six straight wins to wrap up a postseason berth following a 10-game skid. Tulsa still could catch second-place Phoenix but can secure at least the No. 3 seed with a win Sunday because it enters 3 1/2 games ahead of Los Angeles.
These teams have split four meetings with the home team winning each time.
Odyssey Sims has fueled Tulsa’s six-game win streak with an average of 21.7 points. She’s totaled 54 in the last two after getting held to 15 by Los Angeles as Riquna Williams stepped up to also score 15, but Williams will miss a second straight game due to a leg injury.
Sims had only four points and missed all six of her field-goal attempts in last month’s loss to the Sparks and missed the other in July due to injury.