Game Preview: Seattle Storm Opens 2016 Season at L.A. Sparks

Sunday, May 15 – 2 p.m. PT
STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA
WNBA League Pass

 

Team Details

Seattle enters the season aiming to earn a playoff berth for the first time since 2013, while the Sparks have lost in the Western Conference Semifinals each of the last three years. In 2015, L.A. (14-20) finished four games ahead of the Storm (10-24) for the final playoff spot in the West. This preseason, Seattle went 1-1 against Phoenix and the Sparks won all three of their games.

Head-to-Head History

The Storm is 30-32 all-time against the Sparks, including an 11-19 record on the road. L.A. also represents the team that has eliminated Seattle from the playoffs more than any other franchise (four times – all in the Conference Semifinals). Last year, however, Seattle dominated the matchup by winning all four contests, including an 86-61 victory in the season opener. If the Storm wins on Sunday, it would tie the longest win streak against L.A. in franchise history.

Notable Statistics

The two biggest reasons for Seattle’s struggles in 2015? Rebounding and production on the offensive end. The Storm averaged 70.4 points per game and 92.3 points per 100 possessions (both second fewest in the league) while rebounding at a rate of 45.6 percent (lowest in the league). A contributor to those numbers was Seattle’s 15.1 turnovers per game, second most in the WNBA.

With the frontcourt being their strength, the Sparks played at the slowest pace in the WNBA last season. They had just 74.6 possessions per game, and opponents averaged 74.7 (both league lows). L.A. scored only 5.2 fast break points per contest, also the fewest in the league.

Point guard Sue Bird, who signed a multiyear deal with Seattle in February, enters her 15th WNBA season at second all-time in assists (2,215) and ninth in steals (547). The two-time champion has averaged double-figure points every year of her career, and she’s third among active players with 13,373 minutes played.

Key Matchup

Regardless of how often they actually guard each other, forwards Breanna Stewart and Candace Parker are the players to watch on Sunday. It’s the most successful college player ever versus one of the best to ever play in the WNBA. Stewart will make her Storm debut on Sunday, matching up with a player that was named MVP her own rookie year. And although she only played half the season in 2015, Parker had ridiculous numbers: 19.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.

Notes

  • The Storm finalized its 12-player roster on Friday, as point guard Tiffany Bias was the final cut. Stewart and Blake Dietrick are the only newcomers on the roster – 10 of the 12 that finished last season with the team are once again playing in Seattle. Veteran guard Monica Wright, who was acquired midseason last year but sat out due to injury, could make her Storm debut on Sunday.
  • Jenny Boucek enters her second season as the Storm’s head coach following the 10-24 campaign in 2015. Boucek was an assistant in Seattle for both of the team’s WNBA titles, including the 2010 championship run that was led by now-Sparks head coach Brian Agler, who enters his second season in L.A.
  • Jenna O’Hea is not with the Storm due to concluding overseas commitments, while the Sparks’ Riquna Williams is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles.