BRADENTON, Fla. — Down by two points with 0.8 seconds to go, Sue Bird found Jewell Loyd on an inbounds pass, and Loyd knocked down the game-winning three-pointer at the horn to give the Seattle Storm (15-3) the 90-89 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks (13-5).
“Jewell did a really good job of holding and then when she popped out and got open, she got just enough space to get that off,” head coach Gary Kloppenburg said. “She’s a clutch player and that was a big time play for us to pull that out.”
Tied at 82-82 in the final minutes, Breanna Stewart came up huge for the Storm, cutting to the basket for a wide open layup after a slick feed from Alysha Clark to go up by two. But four straight free throws from Brittney Sykes gave the Sparks the lead with less than a minute to go. After a Stewart bucket and a pair of Riquna Williams free throws, the Sparks maintained a two-point advantage with less than a second on the clock, until Loyd’s buzzer-beating three.
Loyd finished with 25 points, and Stewart nearly dropped a triple-double with 20 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds.
The Sparks got out to a hot start, shooting over 50% from the field in the first quarter, led by Candace Parker’s 12 points, but the Storm kept within striking distance throughout. Thanks to Stewart’s 7 points and a more well-rounded attack, the Storm fell behind 25-18 after one frame.
Seattle kept within comeback range throughout the second quarter, led by Loyd, who had 15 points at the halftime break. Trailing by just four, the Storm shot 50% from the field in the first half, but allowed 54.3% shooting from the Sparks, who had made six three-pointers as well.
The third quarter was a back and forth affair, with the teams trading leads and buckets for the entirety of the frame.
Loyd and Stewart continued to lead the way in the fourth quarter, but Natasha Howard also broke double-digit scoring by game’s end, scoring 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Bird rounded out Seattle’s double-digit scorers, finishing with 10 points and seven assists.
“For us, this was a playoff game,” Loyd said. “You have two really good teams trying to get into a rhythm before going into playoffs. You know, every time we play LA it’s always a really good game. It’s what you want to see. You want to see good competition throughout the game. You don’t want to see constant blowouts, you don’t want to see no effort. Both teams were playing really hard, and that’s what you watch sports for. All that excitement all the way down to the buzzer.”
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- With 20 points tonight, Breanna Stewart is now alone in fifth place in Storm history with 2372 career points, passing Camille Little. Stewart is 219 away from Seattle’s fourth-leading career scorer, Tanisha Wright.
- Finishing the game with two steals, Sue Bird tied WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes for fourth in league history in career steals with 657. Bird is 53 steals away from third all-time, held by Alana Beard.
- Alysha Clark tied the Storm’s fifth all-time leading offensive rebounder, Simone Edwards, with her 239th career offensive rebound Friday night. The forward is just 11 offensive rebounds behind fourth-leading Seattle offensive rebounder, Tanisha Wright.
- The Storm outrebounded the Sparks 30-25, and punished Los Angeles with 13 second-chance points and 38 points in the paint.
- Jewell Loyd led the Storm in scoring with 25 points, most notably draining a three as the clock ran out to win the game for the Storm by one point.