The Los Angeles Sparks’ resurgence started in Chicago late last month, but they’ll welcome the Sky for a rematch hoping their recent play hasn’t brought back a few bad habits.
Two-time MVP Candace Parker and the Sparks try to get back on track when they meet MVP favorite Elena Delle Donne and the Sky on Sunday.
Parker scored 31 points on July 31 in Chicago, her second game back after missing the first 16 for self-imposed rest. Parker’s first 30-point performance in more than a year helped the Sparks win 88-77 and start a four-game winning streak, moving them from the Western Conference basement into the fourth playoff spot.
Los Angeles (7-16) has cooled off with back-to-back losses, falling 72-64 in Minnesota last Sunday and 85-77 at home to Seattle on Tuesday, though it still remains in the West’s fourth spot.
The loss to the Lynx also snapped a streak of four games of 80-plus points for the Sparks. Parker continued to fill the stat sheet, but she’s averaged just 10.7 points in Los Angeles’ last three games compared to 19.5 in her first four.
More troubling is a quadriceps injury that kept four-time All-Star Alana Beard out against the Storm. Beard played in Los Angeles’ first two games but missed 14 straight with plantar fasciitis before returning with Parker on July 29.
Beard averaged 11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists in her first five games back before her most recent injury forced her out of the loss in Minnesota after seven-plus minutes on the court.
The Sky (15-10) have had their own injury concern this week.
Chicago, which has a half-game lead for the East’s No. 2 spot, held its breath when Delle Donne rolled her ankle in the first half of a 74-64 win over Phoenix last Sunday. The Sky exhaled, though, as their star returned to score 23 of her game-high 33 points in the second half.
Swelling forced the WNBA’s scoring leader into a walking boot for Tuesday’s 84-63 loss at East-leading New York, but Delle Donne returned with 21 points in 36 minutes of Friday’s 94-84 win in Seattle.
Guard Courtney Vandersloot matched Delle Donne’s scoring output and also had eight assists, her sixth game in the last seven with seven or more.
Vandersloot tied her own team record with 13 assists in Chicago’s loss to Los Angeles, and she leads the league with 5.9 per game.
The road team has won the last three in this series, with the Sky winning 90-83 at Staples Center last season despite not having Delle Donne or Vandersloot.