Seattle Storm At L.A. Sparks: An Opportunity To Clinch A Playoff Berth On KONG

(Photo by Craig Bennett/112575 Media)

After needing game-winning free throws from Sue Bird to beat the Los Angeles Sparks at KeyArena on Sunday night at KeyArena, the Seattle Storm travel south for a rematch against their Western Conference rival at Staples Center. While the Sparks need a win just to keep pace in the playoff race, the Storm have an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight. The game will be televised at Kong 6/16 locally and broadcast online at WNBA LiveAccess. Click here for more on the Western Conference playoff race. For more on the Storm, visit our Seattle Storm section. For more on the WNBA in general, visit SB Nation's women's basketball site Swish Appeal.

The last time the Seattle Storm were in Los Angeles, things didn't turn out so well - they got pounded by 24 points by a deeper and seemingly just more cohesive L.A. Sparks team. 

So even after the Storm (17-12) narrowly defeated the Sparks (12-17) 65-63 at KeyArena on Sunday, there's no reason to assume a second consecutive win over their Western Conference rival and fifth straight overall. 

If nothing else, the fourth quarter of Sunday's game shows just how easily star forward Candace Parker can turn it on and carry her team to the brink of victory. Parker scored nine points in the final six minutes and nearly handed the Storm their third home loss of the season. More generally, what this season's regular season series has shown - both with and without each team's star players - is that almost anything can happen, from a blowout to a nail biter.

With both Parker and Lauren Jackson recently returning from injury, the Storm have arguably benefited more as their 6-foot-6 center's return has helped them curb a major weakness.

Part of the reason that the turnovers are going down is not only that Jackson is present, but also that she's playing much, much better than she was early in the season, accounting for an average of 26.78% of the team's overall statistical production; that's MVP-caliber production, even if it's still not Jackson at her best. With Jackson both demanding more attention from the defense and balancing the court with an interior threat, things have started to open up for the Storm meaning they haven't had to force things nearly as much to create scoring opportunities.

But to add additional stakes to tonight's game, Seattle has an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth with a win, which many Storm fans would find doubly sweet - a Sparks loss would further hurt their playoff chances, as they sit in fifth place with the fourth place San Antonio Silver Stars facing the Connecticut Sun at home.

For more on the Western Conference playoff race, check out our playoff picture storystream. For more on the Storm, visit our Seattle Storm section. For more on the WNBA in general, visit SB Nation's women's basketball site Swish Appeal.

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