By Seth Dahle
Saturday provides the Seattle Storm a huge opportunity to turn its season around with the momentum of a potential upset over the defending WNBA champions.
Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and the Los Angeles Sparks come to town to square off against the Storm on Saturday at 6 p.m. PT. It will be Breast Health Awareness Night for the Storm, as the team will wear pink jerseys that feature the Swedish Cancer Institute’s logo. In addition, fans will be able to donate to the Swedish Cancer Institute via a live online auction that will include game-worn Storm items, as well as items from NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, NWSL and WNBA teams.
Seattle (7-9), which has lost seven of its last nine, is coming off a 79-70 setback to New York on Thursday despite another double-double from Breanna Stewart.
Stewart, who ranks sixth in the league in scoring (18.5) and is tied for third in rebounding (9.1), posted 20 points and 14 rebounds in the loss to the Liberty. After falling down by as many as 14, Seattle clawed its way back to within two behind three’s from Stewart and Sami Whitcomb, but the Storm’s comeback ultimately fell short.
Head coach Jenny Boucek said the team’s mental mistakes ultimately added up.
“We needed to get stops without fouling, stops and rebounds,” said Boucek. “We just didn’t do it. Our defense was too soft.”
In addition to Stewart, Jewell Loyd (16.8), Crystal Langhorne (12.4) and Sue Bird (10.2) average double-figure scoring this season, while Bird also leads the league in assists with seven per contest.
In the latest WNBA Associated Press (AP) Power Poll, Seattle ranks eighth, while the Sparks come in at No. 2.
AT A GLANCE: SPARKS
Los Angeles (12-4) is on the heels of an 88-77 loss at Minnesota on Thursday in St. Paul, Minn. The loss snapped the Sparks’ eight-game winning streak.
Ogwumike led the way with 27 points and 14 rebounds, while Parker was scoreless in the first half and was held below 10 points for only the second time in 2017. After falling behind by as many as 19 in the first half, Los Angeles made it a four-point (53-49) game in the third before Sylvia Fowles and Renee Montgomery proved too much, scoring 20 points apiece for the Lynx.
The Sparks are ranked second in the AP Power Poll and rank first in the WNBA in field goal percentage (48.8) and third in the league in scoring (85.3). Los Angeles snags a league-best 8.6 steals per game while forcing 15.5 miscues per contest.
Ogwumike averages nearly 20 points per game while pulling down 7.2 boards, and Parker posts 16 points, 7.9 boards and 4.5 assists per game. Chelsea Gray has also been big for the Sparks, totaling 16.2 points and 4.1 dimes per affair.
Seattle trails the all-time series, 32-34, with its most recent loss coming in the season opener on May 13 by a 78-68 margin at the STAPLES Center. The Storm was without both Stewart and Bird, but Loyd managed to shoulder the load with 25 points and six rebounds. Ramu Tokashiki netted a season-high 14 points, while Langhorne added 13 points.
The Storm hasn’t lost to the Sparks at home since the 2014 campaign, posting 2-0 records in both 2015 and 2016. Seattle’s last win over Los Angeles at KeyArena came on Sept. 11, 2016, by way of a 78-60 margin. The win proved pivotal for the Storm, as it helped the team secure a spot in the 2016 WNBA Playoffs. Seattle led by 22 (49-27) at halftime, as all five starters scored in double figures, led by 20 points from Stewart.
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