While the Connecticut Sun continue to lead the Eastern Conference, the sub-.500 Seattle Storm are coming off three straight blowout losses.
However, it's the Sun who appear to be much more desperate for a victory Sunday night when they visit Seattle.
Connecticut (22-9) has a 1 1/2-game lead in the East, but dropping this matchup would leave the team even with second-place Indiana in the loss column. The Sun host the Fever on Wednesday.
Seattle (13-17), meanwhile, is locked into the No. 4 seed in the West and seems more concerned with just being healthy going into the playoffs. The Storm have dropped their three games this week by an average of 21.3 points.
"As we get our group back we feel like we can be much improved going into the playoffs," coach Brian Agler said.
Former MVP Lauren Jackson (strained hamstring) sat out Friday's 90-66 defeat in San Antonio, though guard Tanisha Wright (groin) returned after missing Wednesday's 72-48 loss at Indiana. Sue Bird (hip flexor) missed both of those games, and it's uncertain if she or Jackson will be back in action Sunday.
"It's one of those things where I've had it for a really long time and it's about managing it," Bird said. "... Luckily, we have an opportunity here where we've secured the fourth spot, we can't really catch the third spot and we're just trying to gear up for the playoffs. With that comes trying to play better as a team as well as those that are banged up getting healthy."
The Sun have been dealing with injury woes as well, including forward Asjha Jones not playing since the Olympic break due to a strained Achilles.
League MVP candidate Tina Charles missed a game for the first time in her career Wednesday due to a groin strain, though Connecticut rolled to a 100-78 win in Phoenix. Charles returned Friday with 21 points and 13 rebounds, but she also had five of the Sun's 19 turnovers in a 93-82 loss at Los Angeles.
"This was a major disappointment tonight, because that's what you need to do better to win in the playoffs," coach Mike Thibault said. "We've been a low turnover team all year, but in a couple of our losses, we've had bad turnover games that have come back to haunt us, and this is one of them."
Thibault's team had only eight turnovers in its lone meeting with the Storm this season but lost 89-83 at home July 1. Charles, the league leader with 17 double-doubles, grabbed 14 rebounds but was held to 13 points on 4-of-20 shooting even though fellow center Jackson didn't play.
Kara Lawson had 22 points in that matchup, the only time in 12 games this season the Sun have lost when she scores at least 17. Lawson had a career-high 30 points in Wednesday's win but was held to seven Friday.
The Sun have lost their last three visits to Seattle.
- Lauren Jackson