(Los Angeles, CA/Staples Center) — The battle to retain the top spot in the Western Conference took place on Thursday, 6/7/18, as the Sparks (4-1) hosted their opponents from the far north, the Seattle Storm (5-2). The game theme was “Pride Night,” and although the crowd of 9,204 was as enthusiastic as ever, the Sparks could not keep pace with the Storm who have been in rebuilding mode to once again compete for the WNBA Finals.
Game Recap: As an indicator of what would come in this Conference match-up, the first four minutes was definitely all Storm as they broke out on top and never looked back. It was a “wire-to-wire” win, in a game that the Sparks rarely allow on their home court. The score by quarters showed a dominance by the Storm as they were led by their active and tall front line, composed of Alysha Clark, scoring (17), Natasha Howard (16) and Breanna Stewart, All-WNBA Rookie of the Year/WNBA All-Star last season, former UCONN All-American, and 2016 Olympian, (16), and shooting guard Jewell Loyd, (10). To further solidify this line-up, just add in 10 x All-Star, 5 x All-WNBA 1st team, 2 x WNBA Champion, 4 x Olympian, Sue Bird, now in her 17th season of play, who tossed in 8 matched by 8 assists. As her team’s point guard, she was ever present in quarterbacking her team to victory.
Adding to the Storm’s mix was their bench strength. All who played made the most of their minutes, In doing so, their #5 overall 2018 WNBA Draft selection and recent Bruin alumni, Jordin Canada, performed well for her huge crowd of fans who came in to support her in her first trip to Los Angeles as a Pro. Although she scored just 4 points, she matched that output with 4 assists, added 3 rebounds, and 1 steal to her Rookie season stats.
For the Sparks, it was one of those games that slipped away fast due to their cold, off-night of shooting and the starting five never really finding their accustomed playing rhythms and aggressiveness on defense. They trailed by 9 going into the locker room at halftime, (42-33). As the game wore on into the second half, the Sparks inability to execute their game plan in match-ups had become more evident. They had just a few offensive rallies for the game, as the Storm’s defense contributed to offset any of their deep hopes of catching up and overcoming the wide deficits.
It was all academic with 3:40 left in the game. The Storm went on several scoring runs and took the lead at (82-57). An important evaluator’s tool was given to both Head Coaches as they were able to utilize their benches for this game’s critique as well as for future considerations in the coming months of the season.
Carrying most of the Sparks offensive load was Nekka Ogwumike with 19 points. She added 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal to her career totals. She was followed in scoring order by Chelsea Gray with 8, Cappie Pondexter, 7 (in 12 minutes ), Candace Parker, Odyssey Sims, and Essence Carson with 6 each. Riquna Williams scored 5 and Jantel Lavender 4.
The Storm’s game stats reflected wide gaps in most categories of the game–rebounding, (36-26) shooting percentage, (51% -37%) fast break points, (16-6) and one of the most critical in order to win close games, points in the paint (40-30). And, although the “turnover” count for both teams was rather high, the Sparks had just one more, (17-16). With their win, the Storm (6-2) remained in 1st place and will head home to take on the Atlanta Dream, on Sunday, 6/10. FINAL SCORE: Storm 88, Sparks 63.
Now that this game is well into the Sparks’ rear view mirror, they continue on with their first long home stand and return to the court on Sunday, 6/10 when the Chicago Sky (3-4) and 4th place in the Eastern Conference, come into town. They will be led by Guard, Allie Quigley, currently averaging 17.2 ppg.
Media & Graphic Credits: L.A. Sparks and WNBA; Photo Gallery Credits: Anthony Ramirez, East L.A. Sports Scene Productions