The Los Angeles Sparks have rebounded from a rough stretch with a five-game winning streak.
The Seattle Storm are also back on track following a difficult start.
Hoping the Olympic hiatus hasn’t slowed its momentum, Los Angeles heads to Seattle on Saturday night seeking its longest win streak in nearly three years and a season sweep of the Storm.
Since dropping three in a row to end June, the Sparks (15-6) have tied a season high with five straight wins to challenge Minnesota and San Antonio for the top spot in the Western Conference. Los Angeles, which defeated Indiana 77-74 on July 12 in its final game before the break, last won six straight Aug. 15-25, 2009.
If the Storm (10-10) are going to snap the Sparks’ current run, they’ll likely need to slow down the frontcourt duo of Candace Parker and rookie forward Nneka Ogwumike. Parker, who helped the United States win gold in London, is averaging 20.0 points and 12.0 rebounds during the winning streak.
“When she’s aggressive she is going to get anything she wants,” U.S. teammate and Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore said after Parker had game highs of 21 points and 11 boards in the 86-50 gold-medal victory over France last Saturday.
Ogwumike, the No. 1 overall pick, is already showing signs she can take over a game. She has four double-doubles during the win streak and is coming off a 22-point, 20-rebound performance which included a league record-tying 12 offensive boards.
Los Angeles leads the league with 37.6 rebounds per game.
That does not bode well for a Storm team still missing three-time league MVP Lauren Jackson, who is expected to return next week after helping Australia win a bronze medal in London.
Seattle, though, should have Tina Thompson available after she finished with eight points and four rebounds in Thursday’s 72-58 victory over Phoenix. It was the former Sparks forward’s first game since suffering left ankle and knee sprains in an 83-59 loss at Los Angeles on July 7 when Ogwumike rolled on her leg.
The Sparks have won all four meetings with the Storm this season, including a 72-66 season-opening victory at Seattle as they rallied from a 21-point second-half deficit. Kristi Toliver had 25 points in that contest and has averaged 22.3 in the season series, half a point above her average during the Sparks’ current win streak.
The Storm have won nine of 12 to move into fourth in the West following a 1-7 start to the season.
“When we lost those games, we were upset - we didn’t expect to lose that many games,” forward Camille Little said. “But we didn’t focus on what anyone else was thinking. We were more worried about how we felt and how we could play.”
Storm point guard Sue Bird, who won her third gold medal in London, should be ready to go after the stomach flu limited her to 10 minutes Thursday.