The Indiana Fever have been making a push for first place since returning from the Olympic break, while the Eastern Conference-worst Washington Mystics have been heading in the opposite direction after that month-long hiatus.
Indiana goes for its fifth straight home win in this series Tuesday night when the Mystics could debut veteran forward Iziane Castro Marques.
The Fever (14-8) have gone 4-1 since the break, capping a three-game western trip with an 85-72 victory over Phoenix on Saturday. The surge has moved Indiana to within 2 1/2 games of East-leading Connecticut.
Indiana, winner of four of five at home, hosts the Mystics (5-18) for the second time this season after opening the second half with an 84-66 win over Washington on Aug. 16.
The Fever have won by an average of 19.8 points since Washington’s last road victory in this series, 77-73 on July 30, 2010. That doesn’t bode well for a Mystics team that owns the second-worst road record in the league at 1-10.
Washington, trailing Chicago by 4 1/2 games for the fourth and final playoff spot, is coming off an 81-69 home loss to Atlanta on Friday. The Mystics committed 18 turnovers and trailed by 28 in the third quarter.
“It was pretty tough to come back from that deficit,” guard Matee Ajavon said after scoring 16 of her team-high 20 points in the final 4:22. “That loss is pretty hard.”
The Mystics, the WNBA’s lowest-scoring team at 70.0 points per game, are hoping that the release of guard Natasha Lacy and signing of Castro Marques on Sunday will help them improve their faint playoff hopes. Castro Marques, a former Atlanta Dream player, joins the club after getting kicked off the Brazilian team during the London Games for a violation of team rules.
Castro, who shot 53.6 percent from 3-point range during the Dream’s second consecutive run to the WNBA finals last season, could provide a huge lift for Washington. The Mystics are shooting 30.6 percent from beyond the arc - second worst in the league.
The Fever, hitting 45.2 percent of their 3s at home, made nine of 25 during Washington’s visit earlier this month.
Indiana forward Tamika Catchings had 14 points and 14 rebounds in that contest after finishing with 15 points and nine boards in a 67-66 road loss June 15. That ended the Fever’s five-game winning streak in the series.