The Los Angeles Sparks had high hopes of returning to the WNBA playoffs this year after missing them last season.
A season-opening overtime win in Chicago against the defending champion Sky hinted at the potential they possessed.
But a six-game losing streak down the stretch has dropped Los Angeles to 12-20 and eliminated nearly all of its wiggle room for a postseason berth. Beginning with Sunday's game at the playoff-bound Washington Mystics, it's pretty much win-or-else for the Sparks.
"There's still a chance," leading scorer Nneka Ogwumike said. "That's the only thing we can reckon from all this, there's still a chance. Every game is an opportunity."
Friday night's 88-86 loss in Atlanta was a crusher for Los Angeles. Ogwumike's potential game-tying shot came just after time expired. Wasted in the loss was Brittney Sykes' team-high 23 points and Ogwumike's 16.
Ogwumike leads the team with 18.5 points per game while sinking 55.6 percent of her shots from the field.
Meanwhile, Washington (20-13) hurt its chances of earning home-court advantage for its first round series by losing 93-83 in Chicago on Friday. The final margin flattered the Mystics, who trailed 55-34 at halftime and were down 26 early in the fourth quarter before a cosmetic rally made the game look respectable.
"It felt like we were flat," Washington coach Mike Thibault said. "We did not have a great practice (Thursday) and we played like we practiced. It's probably the first bad (game) I'd say we've had in a long while where we just couldn't generate the energy."
Myisha Hines-Allen scored a game-high 21 points and Shakira Austin added 17 for the Mystics, who played without leading scorer Elena Delle Donne. The two-time WNBA MVP was rested in order to have her available for the last three regular season games.
The Sparks and Mystics have split two matchups this year, both in Los Angeles.
--Field Level Media