Sunday, September 11 – 4 p.m. PT
KeyArena | Seattle, WA
Now 5-2 since the Olympic break, the Storm (14-17) has won three straight games to move into the seventh playoff spot. With only three games remaining, Seattle can clinch a postseason berth on Sunday with a victory and a Mystics loss to the Fever. Los Angeles (24-7) has already secured a bye to the league semifinals, but since a 20-1 start, the Sparks have lost six of their last 10 games.
Seattle is 19-13 all-time at KeyArena against the Sparks, including a 79-72 win on August 26. The Sparks were in first place at the time, but Seattle earned a wire-to-wire victory and held former MVP Candace Parker to seven points. Parker had scored 34 in a home win over the Storm in the season opener.
Returning to KeyArena for a crucial home tilt against L.A., the Storm has won six of its last eight home games dating back to July 15 against Washington. That includes victories in each of the last three home contests, the latest being a 78-66 win over Dallas. Seattle is 8-7 at home this year and 6-10 on the road.
On Friday at Washington, Storm guard Jewell Loyd scored the game-winning points for the third time this season. Loyd notched the final six points for Seattle in an 81-76 win, and her driving layup with 2:39 to go proved to be the winner as the Mystics struggled to score in the final minutes. On June 12 at Indiana, Loyd scored 16 points in the second half and hit the go-ahead free throws with 2.4 seconds left to guide the Storm to a 90-88 win. On May 21, Loyd hit a shot with 2.9 seconds remaining to give Seattle an 81-80 win over Phoenix.
Sunday’s game features the two highest-scoring trios in the WNBA. The Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike (19.6 points per game), Candace Parker (15.8) and Kristi Toliver (13.7) slightly edge Seattle’s Breanna Stewart (18.4), Jewell Loyd (17.1) and Sue Bird (13.1) by 0.5 combined points per contest.
Nneka Ogwumike scored a game-high 28 points in the last meeting on August 26, and the former No. 1 overall pick is on pace to set the all-time record for field goal percentage (67.6 percent). The Storm was victorious in the previous matchup despite leading scorer Breanna Stewart, the three-time Rookie of the Month, going 2-for-13 from the field for five points. The Storm will likely need a better performance from Stewart to earn another victory on Sunday.
- Sparks head coach Brian Agler, who guided Seattle to the 2010 championship, has yet to win in three visits to KeyArena since taking the job in L.A. Agler spent seven years in Seattle, leading the Storm to the playoffs in all but one of those seasons. He racked up a 136-102 overall record with the Storm.
- Every team in the league is in action on Sunday, and three others besides Seattle have the chance to clinch a playoff spot. Atlanta can clinch with a win or Washington loss, while Indiana and Chicago can both clinch with a victory. After beating the Mystics on Friday, the Storm owns the tiebreaker against the teams in the three trailing spots in the standings (Phoenix, Washington and Connecticut).