Friday, August 26 – 7 p.m. PT
KeyArena | Seattle, WA
The Storm (9-15) returns from the Olympic break tied for the eighth and final playoff spot with Washington. The Sparks, led by MVP candidate Nneka Ogwumike, own the best record in the league (21-3) and have already clinched their fifth straight postseason berth. After a 20-1 start, however, Los Angeles dropped two out of three games before the Olympic break.
In the very first game of the season, L.A. handed Seattle its worst loss of the season, a 96-66 defeat at STAPLES Center. The Storm will look to even the season series at KeyArena, where Seattle is 18-13 all-time against the Sparks. They will meet once more at KeyArena on September 11.
Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, averaging almost 20 points on exactly 71 percent shooting this year, is on pace to break the league record for field goal percentage. Tamika Raymond holds the record of 66.8 percent in 2003, but she only attempted 5.7 shots per game that year compared to 10.5 for Ogwumike.
Heading into the final stretch of the season, the Storm has several players among the WNBA leaders in the main statistical categories. Rookie forward Breanna Stewart is third in the league with 9.3 rebounds per game and third with 2.1 blocks per game. Sue Bird leads the league with 6.0 assists per game, while Stewart is fifth with 19.2 points per game and Jewell Loyd ranks ninth with 16.5. Stewart, Loyd and Bird are all in the top 12 in minutes with averages of more than 31 per game.
In the first meeting between the teams, former MVP Candace Parker dropped 34 points as the Sparks were in control throughout the game. Breanna Stewart countered with 23 points, the third most any WNBA rookie has ever scored in her debut. Parker scored 34 in her first game for the Sparks in 2008, and the only other rookie debut that featured more points than Stewart’s was Cynthia Cooper in 1997 (25 points).
- The USA women’s basketball team clinched its sixth straight Olympic gold medal with a 101-72 win over Spain last Saturday in Rio de Janeiro. The Americans went 8-0 in the tournament, winning by an average margin of 37.1 points per game. Storm guard Sue Bird won her fourth gold medal, finishing with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 7.8 as the team’s starting point guard. Including FIBA World Championships, Bird now has more gold medals than any other American player (seven). Storm rookie Breanna Stewart won her first Olympic gold medal, averaging 8.1 points on 73.3 percent shooting for the USA.
- Storm forward Ramu Tokashiki led Japan to its first Olympic quarterfinal since 1996 earlier this month in Rio de Janeiro. The Japanese hadn’t qualified for the Olympics since 2004, and they defied all odds by going 3-2 in the preliminary round. Tokashiki’s team then faced the USA in the quarterfinal, falling 110-64. Tokashiki, who won MVP at the 2013 and 2015 FIBA Asia Championships, finished her first Olympics with averages of 17.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
- Although they didn’t have anyone playing for the USA, the Sparks were represented by guard Ana Dabovic in the Olympics. Dabovic, who averages 2.8 points per game off the bench this season, was a key player in Serbia’s run to the bronze medal. Serbia was competing in the Olympics for the very first time, and it gave the USA its toughest test of the preliminary round, becoming the only team to reach 80 points versus the USA in any of the last four Olympics.