EVERETT, Wash. – Call it Breanna Stewart’s version of a dandy dozen.
Stewart scored 12 straight Seattle points during a span of 2 minutes, 28 seconds late in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 27 and helping the Storm fend off the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday night in Angel Of The Winds Arena, 71-62.
Jewell Loyd added 18 points for the Storm (15-4), who completed a sweep of their home-and-home set against the Sparks. Her two free throws with 29.5 seconds left effectively clinched the win.
Except for pair of one-point deficits early in the game – 3-2 and 5-4 – the Storm led all night. But the Sparks (6-12), with their tight defense that denied open looks and forced 19 turnovers, were never out of it.
Seattle built a 14-point lead late in the third quarter at 49-35 as Los Angeles missed its first six shots from the field after halftime and didn’t make one until 3:11 remained in the third.
As the clock dropped below four minutes in the fourth period, the Sparks, who trailed by as many as 17 early in the game, were back within three at 57-54.
That’s when Stewart took over.
With 3:30 to go, she rebounded a missed 3-point try by Loyd and laid it back in for a 59-54 lead. Erica Wheeler, who wound up with 22 points for L.A., answered with a lay-in.
Stewart drained two free throws to make it 61-56. The Sparks put the next four points on the board, cutting it to 61-60 with 2:03 still remaining.
Jordin Canada had a lay-in attempt blocked, but the ball remained in Seattle’s possession with six seconds left on the shot clock and 1:45 on the game clock. Sue Bird found Stewart under the hoop on the inbounds pass for a lay-in and one. Stewart missed the free throw – the Storm’s only miss in 21 tries – but Mercedes Russell grabbed the offensive rebound.
The shot clock ticked all the way down to one second when Stewart launched a jumper from the right side of the foul line. It went in, and she was fouled on the play. The officials reviewed it to make sure she shot before the clock expired, ruled that she had, and Stewart hit the ensuing free throw for a 66-60 lead with 1:28 to go.
Brittney Sykes scored L.A.’s final points on an eight-footer straight in front at the 1:17 mark. On Seattle’s trip downcourt, Bird found Stewart wide open on the right side for a 3-point dagger and a 69-62 lead with 1:02 left.
Stewart made it a double-double – her ninth of the season – by grabbing 11 rebounds.
The victory was another in the Commissioner’s Cup series for the Storm, as they improved to 7-1, with the final two games being this weekend’s home-and-home set against Phoenix: Friday in Arizona, Sunday in Everett. Seattle now has a two-game lead on Las Vegas (5-3) in the Cup standings as the Aces dropped a 99-90 overtime decision to the Mercury on Wednesday.
The Storm can clinch a spot in the Cup final, set for Aug. 12, by winning either game against Phoenix, or if Las Vegas falls to either Minnesota or Dallas later this week.
Friday’s game at Phoenix tips off at 6:00 p.m. (ESPN).