wnba

Sparks start long road trip at Seattle against Storm

DJ Cabanlong-The Sporting Tribune
The Sparks will be gone for a long WNBA road trip. Seven games, to be exact, and they won't have a home game until July 2.

SEATTLE — The Sparks are beginning a voyage like they’re Ferdinand Magellan.

They’re not exactly going to circumnavigate the world but the Sparks (4-7) will be gone for a long road trip. Seven games, to be exact, and they won’t have a home game until July 2.

Their first stop is the Pacific Northwest, where they will visit Seattle Storm (7-4) for their final Commissioner’s Cup game (the Sparks are 2-2). And there will be a familiar face on the other side.

Nneka Ogwumike left the Sparks in free agency. Joining her was Skylar Diggins-Smith, who was sitting out last season due to maternity leave. With Jewell Loyd and Ezi Magbegor entrenched in the team, the Storm suddenly look like a formidable squad to compete with.

How formidable? They just recently had a seven-game win streak snapped on Sunday. But in that stretch of victories, they defeated the likes of the Sky, Mercury, and the two-time defending champion Aces.

They’ve propelled to the top four of the standings by having a top three defense. Magbegor is tied with reigning Defensive Player of the Year A’ja Wilson for the lead in blocked shots (3.0). The Storm as a team lead the league in that same category as well as being second in steals.

It’s remarkable how Diggins-Smith is playing this season after all the time off. She’s a deadly threat as a scorer and facilitator in the pick-and-roll game. Let’s also note that Diggins-Smith and Dearica Hamby are both playing at a high level after having two children.

Nneka Ogwumike has been her usual dependable self and Jewell Loyd continues to be an incredible scorer (she notably scored 37 in Los Angeles last season).

And the Storm go beyond those four with outside shooter Sami Whitcomb, mainstay in the middle Mercedes Russell, the tough Jordan Horston, and another perimeter threat in Victoria Vivians.

But the Sparks have gotten tougher, looking like a new team after wins over the Wings and the Aces. Hamby, the newly minted Western Conference Player of the Week, has continued to be consistent for the Sparks.

Rookies Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson are growing up quickly. And the team itself is beginning to get timely shots in the clutch.

The problem is that the Sparks have continued to get off to atrocious starts. Against the Lynx, they were down 11-0, the Wings were spotted a 7-0 lead last Friday and then the Aces scored the first 14 points Sunday.

The Sparks were able to win the last two games but they can’t keep beginning games like this.

Also of note is that the Storm lead the league in rebounding. Rebounding and physicality have been huge topics of discussion in the last week. So the Sparks have to carry that toughness over from the last two games.

The Sporting Tribune’s Fredo Cervantes contributed to this report.