Washington’s Elena Delle Donne is set to lead the way against Los Angeles. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

Washington Mystics vs. Los Angeles Sparks

What: Second-round playoff game, single elimination
When: Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Charles E. Smith Center at GW University

The Washington Mystics (22-12) make their 2018 postseason debut with a matchup against a Los Angeles Sparks squad that more than earned the right to travel to D.C. for the game. In a first-round, single-elimination contest, Los Angeles (19-15) ousted the defending champion Minnesota Lynx, 75-68, in the latest chapter of a rivalry that has tended to involve the WNBA Finals or conference finals.

The Sparks were led in that game by guard Chelsea Gray, who had 26 points, five rebounds and six assists, while Nneka Ogwumike overcame a persistent illness to chip in with 19 points. The team’s biggest star, Candace Parker, was limited by her own illness, reported to be an upset stomach, and scored just two points in almost 30 minutes, so her condition will bear monitoring.

The Mystics are led by forward Elena Delle Donne, who was honored on Monday as the WNBA’s Eastern Conference player of the month for August. It was her second such award this season, to go with four player of the week nods, and she is a leading candidate to be named league MVP. While Delle Donne averaged 21.0 points this season, good for third best in the WNBA, Washington also got solid scoring contributions from its other four regular starters: guard Kristi Toliver (13.9), forward Ariel Atkins (11.3), center LaToya Sanders (10.2) and guard Natasha Cloud (8.6).

During the regular season, the Mystics took two out of three games against the Sparks, including their past two meetings. The winner moves on to a best-of-five semifinal series against either the Seattle Storm or the Atlanta Dream.

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