Sparks stumble against Storm, lose third straight game

Cris Esqueda-The Sporting Tribune
The Sparks are now outside of the playoff picture due to losing the tiebreaker against the Sky.

LOS ANGELES — Well, that didn’t go well.

The Sparks lost another huge game as the Seattle Storm suffocated them on the defensive end. The final score was 72-61 and it was just one of those grinds. L.A. was usually pretty good at that but the Storm beat them in their own game for the second straight match-up.

The first quarter was not great for the Sparks. Sami Whitcomb was able to get off to a fast start while Jewell Loyd was a classic playmaker with five early dimes. Karlie Samuelson did make a lay-up before the buzzer but the Storm held a 22-12 lead after 10 minutes.

The Sparks scored 8 straight, which went back to the end of the first. But Seattle countered with 7 straight of their own. With the Sparks missing shots and quite frankly, Seattle just being a tougher team, the Storm went into halftime with a 38-29 lead.

While the Sparks were able to cut the deficit to five, Seattle scored 7 in a row to boost the lead to 12. It was not pretty in the third as the Sparks went on to miss three lay-ups inside a couple of minutes. Still, the Storm struggled to put the ball in the hole and the Sparks were still within 52-44 at the end of the third.

And in the fourth quarter, the Sparks were able to cut the deficit down to 57-56 after a Rae Burrell three. But the Storm regrouped, got to the line, and made some clutch shots. Kia Nurse, who made a three from Long Beach earlier, made another three to seal the deal. The Sparks were handed their third straight loss after 6 wins in a row.

The Sparks have played 5 games in their last 9 nights. And fatigue seemed evident on the court at times. I asked Coach Curt Miller about that.

Karlie Samuelson was told about the bad shooting percentage the Sparks had (we’ll get to that later). Here’s her response:

Finally, I talked to the Storm’s deadly sharpshooter Sami Whitcomb concerning what they saw in the Sparks that they’ve had the upper hand against them in their last two match-ups.

I’m not going to sugarcoat this but this was mostly an ugly game. Both teams shot badly. The problem was that the Sparks shot worse. Seattle Storm went .389 from the field. The Sparks? They shot .303. Just not a great day at the office.

With the many misses, the Storm took advantage of their height and outboarded the Sparks, 45-26. That’s how Seattle was able to survive 22 turnovers. The defense was certainly there again for Los Angeles. But like I said in the game preview, they needed to make shots to match that defense. And unfortunately, they didn’t.

The Sparks couldn’t get going offensively, only scoring 61 points. (Cris Esqueda/The Sporting Tribune.)

The leading scorer for the Sparks was Nneka Ogwumike, which was the usual. But what’s not par for the course was her only scoring 11 points. Karlie Samuelson and Rae Burrell each had 10 for L.A. (a career-high for Burrell, by the way). The Storm were led by Jewell Loyd with 25 points. She didn’t shoot well but she got to the line (12 for 12) and did some early distributing (7 assists). Jewell also had 7 boards. Sami Whitcomb was Seattle’s secondary scorer; she put in all 14 points in the first half.

With the Sparks and Sky both with a 15-21 slate, they need help to get into the playoffs as winning out won’t be enough. Chicago holds the tiebreaker for the 8th spot and L.A. has to be a game ahead of them to get into the postseason. And with one home game left (against the Mystics at USC) and three road games to end the season, it’s going to be a tough task for the Sparks to finish with that playoff spot.

But the Sparks have played it tough all season. So what’s one more huge task, right?