The third-seeded Sparks take on the No. 7 Sun in a second-round matchup on Thursday night at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
In 2019, Los Angeles entered the postseason with a serious goal of winning the franchise’s fourth WNBA title. However, that all ended when the Sparks were swept in three games by Connecticut in the semifinals.
Fast forward to this unique season inside the “Wubble,” and the Sparks and Sun meet again in the playoffs. This time, it’s one-and-done.
Los Angeles again has some high hopes after going 15-7 during regular season. Though the Sparks did lose their final two games entering the postseason, they’re well aware the playoffs are a different animal that require a much more intense attitude and focus.
“We very much understand that the season is not over, and that’s something we can look forward to,” star Nneka Ogwumike, who’s averaging 13.3 points, told the Sparks’ official website. “Really come into this playoff swing with some energy and a great run.”
Despite that late-season rut, Los Angeles still rosters some of the game’s best. In addition to Ogwumike, Candace Parker (14.7 ppg, 9.7 rebounds per game, 4.6 assists per game) continues to build on her league legacy and was named Defensive Player of the Year by The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, guard Chelsea Gray averaged 14.0 points and 5.3 assists. Gray totaled 42 points while Los Angeles swept its two-game regular-season series against the Sun by a combined nine points.
Connecticut also dropped its final two games of the regular season, but rebounded nicely with a 94-81 win over Chicago in the opening round of the playoffs on Tuesday. Alyssa Thomas nearly missed a triple-double while posting 28 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. DeWanna Bonner scored 23 and pulled down 12 boards as the Sun overcame the Sky’s 50 percent shooting effort by owning a 40-21 advantage on the glass.
Bonner (19.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg during the regular season) and Thomas (15.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 4.8 apg) are two of the best of the league, and another strong game could potentially help propel the Sun to an upset on Thursday.
“We know that there’s a lot of talent in that locker room,” Sun coach Curt Miller told the Journal Inquirer. “Just one game at a time. We think we can be a really hard out.”
Bonner scored 34 during an 81-76 loss to Los Angeles on July 30. Thomas had 19 points with nine rebounds in the Sun’s 80-76 defeat to the Sparks on Aug. 28.