Silver Stars cooling at wrong time
Best-of-three series opens in Los Angeles on Thursday (ESPN2, 10 p.m. ET)
Both of these teams had hot streaks during the course of the season, Los Angeles reeling off nine straight wins at one point and San Antonio collecting 12 victories in a row.
But the Silver Stars cooled considerably in the final month of the regular season, losing eight of their final 13 games heading into the playoffs. Meanwhile, Los Angeles seems to have found its way again. The Sparks have won 10 consecutive home games, four straight to close the regular season, and are getting stellar play at all positions, particularly inside from Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike.
San Antonio got a very good regular season from Sophia Young, and coach Dan Hughes made the most of his combinations on the floor, including his decision to start Jayne Appel and bring Danielle Adams off the bench for scoring punch. But the Silver Stars hit a skid in the second half, including a run of six losses in seven games, that makes them look vulnerable against a Los Angeles team that didn't have nearly as big a rough patch.
Los Angeles also has the benefit of rest, having wrapped its season Thursday, while the Silver Stars' finale was Sunday.
Key to the series
Parker: The Sparks superstar has regained her early-season form, when she was the most versatile and toughest player to guard in the WNBA. She finished the last three games of the regular season with a combined 71 points and 33 rebounds.
Los Angeles wins if Kristi Toliver is running hot on the perimeter, because the Sparks don't have any trouble scoring in the paint.
San Antonio wins if the Silver Stars can hold down L.A.'s offense. San Antonio allows opponents to shoot 43.2 percent per game, the highest percentage among playoff teams.
Michelle Smith: Sparks in three games. The Sparks are versatile and multidimensional with the strong backcourt play of Toliver and the rejuvenated Alana Beard.
Mechelle Voepel: Sparks in three games. The Silver Stars won the season series 3-1, but the three wins were before the Olympic break and the Sparks -- 16-1 at home this season -- have the home-court advantage in this playoff matchup.
PLAYOFF SCHEDULE: (2) SPARKS VS. (3) SILVER STARS
Date Matchup Tip (TV) Thursday, Sept. 27 Game 1: San Antonio at Los Angeles 10 p.m. (ESPN2) Saturday, Sept. 29 Game 2: Los Angeles at San Antonio 3 p.m. (NBA TV) Monday, Oct. 1 Game 3*: San Antonio at Los Angeles 10:30 p.m. (NBA TV) * If necessary
Date Recap Notable June 16 At San Antonio 98, Los Angeles 85 OT Sophia Young and Becky Hammon each scored 24 points, combining for 11 in the extra period June 24 San Antonio 91, at Los Angeles 71 It was the Sparks' only loss at home during the regular season June 28 At San Antonio 94, Los Angeles 80 Five players scored in double figures for San Antonio, which overcame 25 points from Candace Parker Aug. 23 At Los Angeles 101, San Antonio 77 Kristi Toliver nailed 6 of 7 3-point attempts en route to 29 points
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