(Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA)—[Game Preview – 2nd Round Single Elimination Playoff Game, 9/15]. With everything on the proverbial line, both teams came into this single elimination encounter with only one thought in mind… Win!! or call it a season. Losing was not an option for the streaking and momentum embracing, #3 seeded Sparks. They came in riding a phenomenal (14) game home court winning streak and an overall record of (22-12) while the Storm (18-16), although not in possession of a great season record, had to defeat the Lynx to move on into this game.
Note From The Editor : Our production brings you the full game write-up, an outstanding photo gallery, post-game locker room player video interviews with Riquna Williams, Sydney Wiese, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, and our closing comments.
Starting Line-Ups: Sparks-Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker, Chelsea Gray, Riquna Williams, & Tierra Ruffin-Pratt. For the Storm: Natasha Howard, Jewell Loyd, Jordin Canada, Alysha Clark, & Mercedes Russell.
Celebrity Watch: NBA Hall of Famer and L.A. Laker Legend, Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Wife, Cookie. Attendance: 9,081
Game Summary: (1st Qtr)—Natasha Howard opened the scoring with 2 free throws after being fouled (2-0). Riquna Williams answered on an assist by Candace Parker for her first trey of the game, (3-2). Storm’s Jordin Canada swept to a basket on a drive through the key, (4-3). Both teams were rather cold and not quite in rhythm, perhaps due to the early 12 noon tip-off. A jump ball occurred with 7:03 remaining and the Storm won control. With that, Howard scored on a great reverse pivot move over CP3 with 2:25 left, for a (6-3) score. After a “defensive 3-second violation” was called against the Storm, Chelsea Gray made the single free throw. Nneka Ogwumike missed a lay-up, but CP3 tipped it in,(6-6). That was followed by a J. Canada basket. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt then hit a deep 3-ball, (9-8), L.A. Then CP3 drove “coast to coast” all alone for a bucket, (8-8). A time-out was called by the Storm. On a foul in the act of shooting, Canada missed a free throw but Howard grabbed the board and working free for her shot, she drilled a trifecta from the corner, (13-11). She then showed her brilliant inside post moves with a soft jump-hook in the key, (15-11), Seattle. After a Storm unforced turnover, Chiney Ogwumike subbed in for CP3 with 3:18 left. N. Howard was now on a roll, adding another 3-pointer, (18-11) Storm. N. Ogwumike was fouled as she went up and sank both, making it (18-13). Alana Beard was subbed in. Both teams scuffled hard for loose balls, recognizing the importance of displaying that extra hustle and grit. Sydney Wiese found her range and buried a 3-pointer from the corner, (18-16), Storm. Alana Beard leaked out in transition and received a perfectly targeted 40′ football pass from C. Gray. Beard scored a tough basket on a body-twisting lay-up, much to the delight of the big crowd. Gray then hit her now patented jumper, (20-18), L.A. Defensively, N. Ogwumike stole a pass, then C. Gray connected for another jumper, (22-20), The Storm’s Crystal Langhome hit a triple as time ran out to end the period, (23-22), Storm.
Photo Gallery Credits: Jerry Kelly/T.G.Sportstv1
(2nd Qtr)—Maria Vadeeva blocked a lay-up. Sparks recovered the ball but then missed an easy jumper. Vadeeva, Wiese, C. Ogwumike, Gray, and Beard were all in the line-up at this time.Gray hit a “spot up” jumper for (24-23) lead. At the 8:17 mark, CP3 returned to re-energize the squad. C. Ogwumike hit for banker with the assist going to Chelsea. (26-23), Sparks. A shot clock violation was called on the Storm at 7:23. In transition, Beard came down and hit a jumper from the left elbow, (28-23). Gray was getting busy and buried a 25′ trey, (31-23). A time-out was taken by the Storm at 6:41. When play resumed, Jewell Loyd hit a runner, (31-25), Sparks. CP3 worked hard in the paint for a 4′ hoop, (33-25). Riquna and Nneka returned to game for Wiese and Beard. The Sparks then turned the ball over to Canada on a fast break attempt, but she missed the chance to score. TRP checked in for Beard at 5:05. The Storm’s Mercedes Russell was fouled on a shot attempt and made 2 free throws, (33-27). Gray remained in her groove and fired up a rocket, good from 3-point land, (36-27). After another turn-over by the Storm, the Sparks missed a 3-ball. But, Alysha Clark was fouled and hit 2 free throws, cutting the lead to seven, (36-29). N. Ogwumike powered one of her patented “banked” lay-ups off the glass while operating fearlessly underneath, (38-29). Riquna showed her struggles from the 3-point line, but she never flinched with any concern. Clark hit 2 more free throws, (38-31) with 2:31 left in the half. Jewell Loyd buried a 3-pointer, (38-34). Sparks rebounded their missed shot and drew a new clock. N. Ogwumike then hit a nice mid-range jumper, (40-34). Storm’s Crystal Langhome retaliated with a jumper from the key, (40-36). Stepping back up for another momentum adding 3-pointer was none other than Chelsea Gray moving the score to (43-36) with just :40 seconds left. The Storm committed a “loose ball” foul with :05 seconds left. Sparks awarded the ball and Coach Fisher promptly called a time-out to set up a last second shot. However, when play resumed, CP3 missed an open jumper, ending the first half at (43-36), Sparks. Of Significance….Offense—Chelsea Gray with 11 points on (3-4) 3 point shot attempts. Team Defense–6 steals.
HALFTIME SCORE: Sparks 43 Storm 36
(3rd Qtr)—In an uncommonly seen play, the third quarter began with the Storm being awarded a Technical Foul free throw for a WNBA ruling called “Away From the Play” foul. The calling official assessed it to TRP. The attempt was taken by Canada, who made it, (43-37). After that, the Storm in-bounded and away they went. Canada drove underneath and had her shot blocked. Riquna then drove and appeared to be fouled, but no whistle. As quick as you could say Nneka, she appeared and rebounded the miss. In going back up with it, she was fouled and made both (45-37). Seattle’s Mercedes Russell answered with a 3′ floater in the lane, (45-39). Riquna began to heat up with a 3-pointer, (48-39). Jewel Loyd answered back with one of her own, (48-42). Nneka receipted from CP3 underneath and scored it (50-42). Natasha Howard came back for two, (50-44). A booing crowd did not appreciate a “player-control” foul against Riquna. Canada then hit a jumper, closing to (50-46). A Technical Foul was called on Riquna for unsportsmanlike conduct after she ripped the ball loose from Jewell Loyd after a foul had been called against Loyd. The crowd once again lashed out in disfavor with the call. A jump ball resulted with the Sparks winning it, however, they couldn’t convert and N. Howard then drove the distance of the court and hit a 6′ floater in the lane, (50-49). Time out was then called by the Sparks with 6:40 remaining. They came back and TRP calmly hit a jumper in the key, (52-49). Chelsea then drained a “nothing-but-net” 3-pointer, increasing the lead to (55-49). Canada, the former UCLA standout, who was a thorn in the side all game, hit a driving lay-up, (55-51). Nneka replied with a “power” step move, (57-51). The Storm answered back despite a great block by CP3. Sydney Wiese entered the fray 3:29. N. Howard then buried a 3-ball, closing to within one point at (57-56). Chelsea was able to find CP3 open underneath for a bucket. (59-56) with 2:12 left. Chiney and Alana both subbed in. Chelsea, once again was in her zone, giving another real-time “Game Clinic” to fans and opponents alike, as she scored for a (61-56). Jewell Loyd came back for a hoop, (61-58) as she kept her team very close. With 1:33 remaining, Riquna re-entered. After a furious offensive glass attack, CP3 came out with the rebound. She drove the length of the court and was fouled in the act of shooting. She converted one, (62-58). CP3 came right back on a “dribble -drive” for a (64-58) lead. Then on the play of the game up to that pint, the Sparks threw an outlet pass up court to Riquna, she took two dribbles past half-court and then launched and made a “buzzer-beating” 30 foot 3-pointer giving her team a huge momentum booster, as well as bringing the highly jubilant crowd to its feet. The shot made the score (67-58) to end the period. Per WNBA Rules, the officiating crew put the shot under review. After receiving approval from HQ, the shot counted, and then there was more applause and approval from the devoted fans in attendance.
(4th Qtr)—The Sparks took the ball out-of-bounds to start the final stanza. Riquna continued with her scoring stroke, and hit a lay-up, (69-58). Mercedes Russell answered back on a lay-in, (69-60). Natasha Howard was fouled and made one free throw (69-61). Nneka checked in for CP3 at 8:35. C. Ogwumike then cleaned up a Riquna miss underneath for a (71-61) score. Another flurry of possessions resulted in a ragged “back-and-forth” game for a few minutes. Then after a ball was hit loose, Sydney Wiese grabbed it and threw a 50′ “over-the-shoulder” pass to Nneka downcourt who drew a shooting foul as she planted herself down low. A time-out was called by Seattle at 6:56. She missed her first but made her second for (72-61) lead. A shot clock violation was called on Seattle. Then Wiese hit a huge trey from the corner after a rebound by C. Ogwumike, (75-61) Sparks. On the next possession, Wiese rained down another 3-ball, (78-61). Nneka then made a short rainbow 6-footer (80-61), and the beginning of the end of the opponent could be felt inside of Staples Center. The Sparks had no quit and kept scoring when Nneka made a 10′ jumper from the baseline. Sami Whitcomb ended the Storm’s drought with a 3-pointer, (82-64). Vadeeva came in with 3:51 left in game to gain valuable playoff time experience. Chiney O. connected on a “put-back” underneath for a 20 point lead at (84-64). A final media time-out was called but it was “all Academic” from there as the Sparks closed out the victory with a few more baskets from reserve center, Kalani Brown, which pushed the final score to (92-69).
FINAL SCORE: Sparks 92 Storm 69
Next Up: #2 Seed, Connecticut Sun, Tuesday, 9/17/19. Tip-off at 4 pm, PST. The Sparks defeated the Sun during their 15 consecutive home game win streak on 8/25 by the score of (84-72). The Sparks have won their last four games in a row. Their last loss was to the Las Vegas Aces on the road, 8/31.