The Los Angeles Sparks have been the top team in the WNBA throughout the regular season and look to stay that way as they travel to Seattle to play the Storm on Friday night at KeyArena as the league gets back to action after a month-long break for the Rio Summer Olympics.
The Sparks (21-3) have already won seven more games than they did in all of 2015 and are a half-game ahead of Minnesota for the best record in the league with 10 games to play.
Nneka Ogwumike, who leads Los Angeles and is third in the WNBA with a 19.6-points per game average, noticed this year's team click almost immediately.
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“The cohesiveness was instant, and the chemistry is impenetrable, on and off the court,” Ogwumike said. “It's just nice to be able to bring in all the pieces together and make something work so beautifully.”
Los Angeles has already guaranteed itself a spot in the WNBA's new playoff system, which awards the best eight teams (regardless of conference) in the postseason and grants byes into the semifinals for the two best teams.
Seattle (9-15) enters its final 10 games tied for the eighth and final playoff spot and are one win from matching their total from last season. The Storm, buoyed by a mix of veterans and hard-charging young players including Breanna Stewart, this season's No. 1 pick, are in a position to reach the postseason for the first time since 2013.
“I think we're ahead of schedule,” Seattle coach Jenny Boucek said. “We're competing and in position (to win) every night and we're really looking forward to taking that next step. So I'm encouraged with where our team is.”
Los Angeles waylaid Seattle by 30 points on opening night back on May 15 when the Sparks' Candace Parked shredded the Storm with a 34-point performance. The two teams play for a third time on Sept. 11 at KeyArena.