Even with 12 games left, it's doubtful that the fourth-place Seattle Storm will move in the Western Conference standings before the postseason starts.
However, having three-time MVP Lauren Jackson in the lineup could help the Storm make a strong push going into the playoffs.
Jackson could make her season debut when the Storm, trying to avoid a third straight loss in Seattle, go for their sixth consecutive home win over the Indiana Fever on Thursday night.
Eight games back of WNBA-leading Minnesota and 6 1/2 behind San Antonio and Los Angeles, Seattle (10-12) is pretty well set in the fourth and final playoff spot in the West. The Storm hold a significant edge over 4-17 Phoenix and 3-18 Tulsa, owners of the worst records in the league.
An 8-3 run leading into the Olympic break helped the Storm reach this position, but the team's lack of depth up front is taking a toll as they've dropped two of three.
Center Ann Wauters has missed the last eight contests with an Achilles' injury, league all-time leading scorer Tina Thompson is day-to-day with a sprained knee and Jackson hasn't suited up for the Storm in 2012, having played for Australia as it took bronze at the London Games.
Jackson couldn't help in Tuesday's 86-73 home loss to the Lynx as she watched from the bench after flying in from Australia, but said she'd make her season debut Thursday.
While that's subject to change, the Storm are thrilled to have their star back.
"I'm looking forward to playing with her again,'' point guard Sue Bird said. "She's someone who has been a partner in crime for the last 11 seasons. Whenever we're back on the floor together, it's very comfortable. I think she puts us at ease.''
Seattle won 68-54 in Indiana's last visit June 17, 2011.
While the Storm try to prevent their first three-game home skid since a four-game slide July 16-30, 2006, the Fever (12-8) continue their three-game Western Conference trip following a 79-69 loss to the Sparks on Tuesday.
Indiana shot 34.2 percent from the field and fell four back of East-leading Connecticut.
The Fever could snap their three-game losing streak to West opponents if forward Katie Douglas continues her solid play. She's gone 10 for 14 from 3-point range in the last two contests and scored 51 points - her best two-game stretch of 2012.
Indiana and Seattle split two games in 2011. Center Jessica Davenport led the Fever with 22 points in those matchups, while Catchings grabbed a team-high 20 boards.
Indiana last dropped two in a row during a season-worst three-game slide June 3-15.
- Seattle Storm
- Indiana Fever
- Lauren Jackson