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2011 WNBA Playoff Race: Los Angeles Sparks Inch Closer To Seattle Storm With Big Win Over Indiana Fever

After looking at the playoff chances for the Los Angeles Sparks, I suggested they would have to win nine of their remaining 11 games to have a shot at making the playoffs.

And when looking over their remaining games, tonight's game against the Indiana Fever did not appear to be the most winnable on the list - not only are the Fever first place in the Eastern Conference, but they've also been playing some of the best basketball in the league lately.

But recently returned superstar forward Candace Parker had the type of game for the Sparks that illustrates what makes her such a major impact player.

Parker had 18 points, six rebounds and a game-high five assists to help the Sparks get a big 75-70 win against the Fever tonight as they try to make a playoff push. But beyond the balanced stat line, Parker's performance stood out for the number of ways that she impacts the game: rebounding and bringing the ball up court against stalwart defender Tamika Catchings, driving to the basket, setting up teammates, and hitting a three. The Sparks have a versatile roster without Parker, but with Parker creating such a matchup nightmare she takes this deep and talented roster of players to another level.

With the win, the Sparks move within 2.5 games of the Seattle Storm for the fourth and final playoff spot as well as three games behind the third place San Antonio Silver Stars.The win also prevented the first place Minnesota Lynx from being the first team to clinch a playoff spot after their 81-62 win over the Washington Mystics tonight. That sets up an intriguing opportunity for the Sparks to show how competitive they really are going up against the Lynx in Minnesota on Saturday with a chance to further delay clinching a seemingly inevitable playoff berth.

No Western Conference teams are in action on Friday night, but all five playoff contenders will be in action on an exciting slate of Saturday games with the Phoenix Mercury hosting the Silver Stars and the Storm hosting the New York Liberty at 7 p.m. PST at KeyArena.