Sparks look to get back on track against Seattle Storm

The Sparks and the Storm have split their first two match-ups.

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Sparks (15-20) are hanging on to the 8th and final playoff spot with five games to go. They lead the Chicago Sky by a half-game and the good news is that the Sparks control their own destiny. If they win out, they’re making the playoffs.

However, the Sky do hold the tiebreaker after the Sparks had a heartbreaking defeat against them last Tuesday. So the Sparks can’t afford to lose one, especially with the aforementioned Sky being a little hot as they have won three of their last four games.

The Sparks draw the Seattle Storm (10-25) in their last regular season game at Crypto Dot Com Arena (the last home game for the season will take place at the Galen Center at USC). The Storm admittedly don’t have much to play for as they have been eliminated from playoff contention. However, they can definitely play for pride and they can undoubtedly play the spoiler for teams jockeying for a playoff spot.

It’s been a long while since these teams have played each other. On June 3rd, the Sparks survived a 37-point barrage from all-world scorer Jewell Loyd and defeated Seattle, 92-85. Three days later, the Sparks had a 21-point lead in the first half before it evaporated due to Seattle’s strong defense. The Storm would get their first win of the season after that comeback.

Those games were nearly three months ago so things might feel a little new again between these two teams. Let’s take a look at some of the Storm’s players.

Jewell Loyd continues to lead the league in scoring at 24.2 points per. Ezi Magbegor has emerged as the second all-star with averages of 14.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks (which would be second in the league). Sami Whitcomb continues to be a threat from the perimeter as she’s shooting .377 from behind the three-point line at 5.8 attempts per game. And their first round pick, Jordan Horston, has had a nice season (7.2 points, 5.1 rebounds per game). She scored 14 points against the Sparks in their second match-up.

They have some strong offensive players but, as a team, they are last in offensive rating at 97.1 points per 100 possessions. Still, when you have a scoring dynamo in Jewell Loyd, you’re really never out of a game.

The Sparks once again had a lull on the offensive end against Chicago and that might have cost them the game. We know the Sparks will always fight their way back; they’ve proven it time and again. But they can’t keep having droughts like this. The Sparks will always have their defensive intensity and adjust when necessary but they’ll need offensive firepower to match. Nneka Ogwumike continues to get double-doubles (101 in her career now). Jordin Canada seems to find her way to the line quite a bit and has a super improved three-point shot. Azura Stevens has mostly been their tertiary (or even secondary and primary) option. Karlie Samuelson has made clutch threes repeatedly. They did miss Layshia Clarendon on Tuesday as their second ballhandler and aggressiveness on defending the perimeter. They’ll continue to be out due to health and safety protocols. The Sparks are 12-8 when Clarendon is in the line-up… and 3-12 without.

The Storm may not be playing for a playoff spot but they can definitely alter the Sparks’ destiny. Head coach Curt Miller has reiterated that the Sparks are in a building year. Still, a playoff berth would be one hell of a block to build on and with a win against the Storm, they would be one step closer to getting that spot.