Monday, August 31, 2009
Who: The Atlanta Dream (15-14) take on the Los Angeles Sparks (15-14) as both teams sprint to the finish in their respective conferences.
The Dream have Angel McCoughtry (12.4 ppg) as well as All-Star Team members Sancho Lyttle (13.2 ppg) and Erika de Souza (11.2 ppg). The Sparks are virtually an all-star team that includes Candace Parker (12.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg), Tina Thompson (12.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and in her final year of competition, Lisa Leslie (15.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg)
What: The second of two games this year against Los Angeles. Atlanta lost the first game August 23rd in Atlanta as the Sparks won 91-87 in front of a sellout crowd.
Where: The Staples Center in Los Angeles.
When: Tipoff is 10:30 pm Eastern on Tuesday, September 1st. The game can be seen on WNBA Live Access.
Why: Despite losing three of its last four games, the Dream have managed to keep their head above water and remain in second place in the Eastern Conference. Why? Because the overwhelming parity has meant that just as soon as one team challenges the Dream, another Eastern Conference contender drags the challenger down with the rest of the pack. Mechelle Voepel said it best that the race to the conclusion might be one of those ice skating races where the competitors are bunched up in a pack, then something happens and everyone goes crashing to the floor - last player standing wins.
Playing in Los Angeles will be tough. Much ado was made about the Spark's long stretch of home games near the end of the season, but the Sparks have won as easily on the road as they have away, winning seven of their last eight. (Including a win at Philips Arena.) Los Angeles's turnaround mojo might have to do with Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker being closer to their physical peaks now than they were at the beginning of the season. When those two are having a good night, the Sparks are nigh unstoppable.
But not unstoppable. One of the Dream's four wins last year came at the Staples Center, proving that in the WNBA, there isn't a team that's free from challengers. Another win in Los Angeles would be a high point for the Dream's season.
Chamique Holdsclaw remains at home, trying to rehab from knee surgery. The Dream have been looking for another leader but no one appears to have stepped up. Angel McCoughtry went 5-for-14 and Iziane Castro Marques went 6-for-23 in shooting in the Seattle loss and the Dream can't afford a night like that. On the other hand, Erika de Souza had six offensive rebounds against the Storm and Atlanta won the battle of the boards against Seattle. If the Dream can keep the Sparks off the glass - a mighty big if - it could be another amazing Atlanta/Los Angeles game.