After a convincing season-opening win over the San Antonio Stars, the Washington Mystics will begin a three-game road swing Friday night, beginning with a match-up against the reigning WNBA champs, the Los Angeles Sparks.
The Sparks are expected to return Finals’ MVP Candace Parker, starter Jantel Lavendar and reserve Essence Carson who all missed the Sparks’ first game because they were still playing overseas. Because of this, the Sparks delayed their championship ring ceremony and that will be broadcast live on Twitter this evening.
For the Mystics, this road trip could provide some bonding time for a team that has a few new faces. It’s also Emma Meesseman’s last three games before she heads to Belgium for EuroBasket practice.
There are many story lines, but here’s what you need to know for tonight:
When and Where? 10:30 p.m. (eastern) at the Staples Center in L.A.
Watch on: Monumental (D.C.), Spectrum SportsNet (L.A.), WNBA League Pass
Injury Report: The Google Machine tells me both teams are healthy, though its unclear how much Parker, Lavender and Carson play. Reports say they are “expected to return to Los Angeles in time for Friday's game.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Who guards Nneka Ogwumike? — The reigning WNBA MVP had a solid start to her season in the Sparks’ 78-68 win over the Seattle Storm, tallying 23 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals, but she did that over a long period of time - 38 minutes of play - and shot just 10-of-20 from the floor. But with Parker and others returning, Ogwunmike may not have to carry all of the load for the Sparks and should see some better looks from the floor. Who Mike Thibault assigns to guard the 6-foot-2 scorer for the Styx will be interesting to see.
How will Kristi Toliver play against her old team? — Current Sparks won’t be the only players getting their championship rings on Friday night. Toliver should get one too after the 5-foot-7 guard hit a pair of three-pointers and dished out four assists in the Sparks’ Game 5 win over the Lynx this past October. How Toliver plays after dressing in the visitor's locker-room at Staples will be something to watch for. She spent seven seasons with the Sparks and is their franchise leader in three-point and free throw shooting percentages. In her Mystics’ debut, she had eight points and four assists in 27 minutes.
Will Shatori Walker-Kimbrough play? — The former Terp has yet to make her regular season Mystics’ debut after receiving a DNP-Coaches Decision in the season opener. The No. 6 overall pick in this past year’s draft scored 12 points in 20 minutes in the Mystics’ preseason opener against Indiana, but failed to score in 16 minutes in their preseason game against the Lynx. Walker-Kimbrough, the fourth-best scorer in Maryland Terrapins’ history, developed a reputation in college for being a sharpshooter from outside and being able to step in passing lanes for timely steals. She could provide important depth for the Mystics this season and may get a chance to play against the Sparks.