Much of the talk from the Los Angeles Sparks recently has been about the postseason, but their play lately has left plenty to be desired.
They'll likely get another tough test Tuesday night on the road in a potential first-round preview against the Minnesota Lynx, who need a victory to keep their chances alive for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles (14-17) sits in third place in the West, but its lead over fourth-place San Antonio was trimmed to one-half game after falling 82-76 to the Stars on Sunday.
It marked the third loss in five games for the Sparks, with each defeat coming against a conference opponent. Nneka Ogwumike scored 18 points, but Candace Parker shot 3 of 12 and finished with six after scoring 26 and 28 in her previous two games.
''I think that's been something that we've struggled with throughout the year - being inconsistent throughout the game,'' Ogwumike said. ''It can even get down to 38 minutes, and then the last two minutes we have to be able to capitalize on opportunities.
"These close games going into the playoffs, it's going to be a playoff atmosphere, and that's what we need to expect and be ready to play against.''
Los Angeles will experience that against the Lynx (24-7), who are 2 1/2 games behind Phoenix for first place and would be locked into the No. 2 seed with another loss or Mercury win.
If Minnesota, the three-time defending West champion and reigning WNBA champ, remains in second place and the Sparks secure third, the clubs would face each other in a best-of-three first-round series.
The Lynx had an 11-game winning streak snapped with Saturday's 82-80 loss to Phoenix, as Diana Taurasi's jumper with 2.9 seconds left proved to be the difference. Maya Moore finished with 30 points and hit a runner to tie it with 7.9 seconds remaining before Lindsay Whalen had her last-second layup blocked.
Minnesota fell despite shooting 48.5 percent.
''We played hard, we had a lot of great hustle and effort but didn't execute in the second half like we usually do,'' Moore said. ''But we still shot a great percentage.''
Coach Cheryl Reeve likened the game between the West's top two teams to a playoff contest and was proud of her club's effort.
''Kind of unfortunate, we were right there, throughout most of the game had the lead, and then once they took the lead, you could see the bounce in their step went up," Reeve said. "It was a great game. They made the plays at the end and we didn't.''
The Lynx are looking to sweep the season series after taking the first three meetings by an average of 13.6 points. Moore scored 31 in a 94-77 win June 17 and 30 in an 83-72 victory July 8.