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The Sparks playoff hopes are dim, but alive

L.A. needs another win, and a whole lot of help.

Los Angeles Sparks v Atlanta Dream Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Sparks won the penultimate game of their season on Thursday, beating the Atlanta Dream 74-68 on the road. With the win, the Sparks were able to keep their dreams of a 2021 playoff berth alive.

Barely.

The Sparks are still alive in the standings, one of three teams still vying to for the final spot in the eight-team postseason field. And unfortunately L.A. is where you don’t want to be at this point in the season: needing help.

Let’s start with what the Sparks can control. They have one game left, a Sunday matinee (2:00 p.m. PT) at the Dallas Wings on NBA TV. Regardless of what happens elsewhere in the league, the Sparks need to win their finale if they hope to play beyond the regular season.

The bad news is that L.A. is 0-2 against Dallas this year, with two ugly losses at the beginning of the season. The good news is that if the Sparks are still mathematically alive entering Sunday’s game, that means Dallas will have already locked in the seventh seed, with no ability to move up or down. In other words, if it’s a meaningful game for the Sparks, it’s a meaningless game for the Wings, and they might load manage some of their top players.

But while the Sparks need to handle their own business, they also need an assist from the Washington Mystics. The Mystics are a half game ahead of the Sparks in the standings, but own the tiebreaker, meaning L.A. needs to finish with a better record than Washington to get into the playoffs.

Which means the Mystics need to lose out in their final two games.

That starts Friday afternoon, when Washington visits the New York Liberty at 4:00 p.m. PT in a game broadcast on Twitter. The Liberty need to win to keep their postseason hopes alive, so the Sparks can watch the game knowing N.Y. will give it everything they have.

Washington concludes their season at 12:00 p.m. PT on Sunday, hosting the Minnesota Lynx on ESPN3. Given that WNBA games usually last a little under two hours, L.A. could know the result of that game before they take the floor for their game in Dallas.

It’s a bit of a long shot for L.A., needing to not only win but have Washington lose twice. But it ain’t over til it’s over, and it’s not over.