STORM LOSE: Sometimes the best stuff happens when the tape recorder is off and that was the case on Sunday. In looking at Seattle’s 1-4 record, I disagreed with Bird about it ultimately not looking bad. It’s 1-4, how can that not be bad? “But would you say we’re better than we were yesterday?” Yes. “Well…” Then Bird went to shower and shake off the 67-65 loss at LA behind a half luck-half skillful shot from Ogwumike with 2.1 seconds left in the game. I’ve seen Ogwumike break hearts with the same shot a million times in college and have the same unfazed demeanor after the clutch move, making sure she’s alert on defense so the opponent can’t pull a miracle of its own. I just didn’t think it would happen in the pros…yet. From Agler’s view, Wauters flanked Ogwumike, Little slid over slightly to help and based on camera images, the rookie was fouled. Doesn’t matter. The bucket went in and Seattle’s best game is marred in a loss. The Storm was strong, clean and aggressive in the paint, outscoring the Sparks 18-6 inside at one point in the third quarter. But the Sparks reeled off eight to end the quarter and eventually took a one-point lead off a Parker layin from a wicked pass by Toliver. Smith (19 points) tied the game with one of her game-high five three-pointers. Little even tied the game, again, on a tip-in off a Bird miss with 5.5 seconds left. But Seattle opted not to use its last foul to give and burned its timeouts, clearing a way for Ogwumike’s first heart-breaker in the WNBA. And what’s next for Seattle? How about the undefeated Minnesota Lynx (6-0) on the road.
BREAK TIME: I’m out to focus on the newspaper edition. Seattle is up 49-43 headed into the fourth quarter. Bird (12) and Smith (11) are leading the Storm while Storm defense is keeping everyone but Parker (14) contained. We’ll see if Seattle can continue for another 10 minutes. The Sparks shot a combined 2 for 13 from the field in the third quarter.
CHIPPING BACK?: The Storm extended its lead to 47-38, but have let the Sparks chip back in with turnovers and made FTs. A bucket from Tina Thompson made the score 49-43.
HALFTIME: Smith nailed her third three-pointer of the half to put Seattle up 34-32 at the break. The Storm has a balanced attack, getting 12 points from outside, 14 in the paint and making 6 of 8 from the line. Smith leads with 11 while the bench is outscoring LA’s 11-2. Parker leads LA with 11 points and five boards but she isn’t getting the backup she did in past matchups with Seattle. Milton-Jones and Ogwumike are a combined 2 for 8 from the field and have a combined three boards. F Jantel Lavender and Ebony Hoffman are also ineffective. Oh, the halftime entertainment was a performance by two gospel groups. The children brought the house down with a routoine that was like Alvin Ailey’s “Wading in the Water.” I’ll post it on Twitter (@JaydaEvans) from Youtube.
TOUGH CROWD: Folks at Staples Center weren’t too happy with the telecasts’ interview with Sheldon Williams, Parker’s husband, before Bird’s free throws. Some screamed “Come on!” wanting the game to start back. Then they booed Bird, who made one of two ensuing FTs. Storm leads 31-28.
STAT WATCH: Sure, Parker got a block in, but Seattle is doing work inside, outscoring the Sparks 14-4 in the paint. The Storm is also winning the boards 16-13 to help build a 30-28 lead. There’s 1:59 on the clock.
COLD KOBRYN: Cold as in good, that is. She’s giving the Storm good minutes off the bench along with rookie Shekinna Stricklen, allowing Bird to rest for six minutes. Valuable time given the way this game could go. Seattle is up 21-20 with 5:38 left in the half and Stricklen headed to the line for two FTs.
SAME PLAY: LA is up 16-15 after Toliver ran the same play, swing the ball and zone defense to the right, leaving Parker open on the left for a three-pointer. This time it connected. Seattle is outscoring LA 8-4 in the paint, but shooting 1-for-6 from three-point range. Wauters made the one and is leading the team with seven points. Parker has nine for the Sparks.
ROUGH GAME: Lots of contact on the court and for once (this season), Seattle is part of the physical play that’s ruffling feathers. And the Storm finally caught the Sparks’ post players sleeping, Bird getting a backdoor cut to help the team be ahead 15-13 with 45 seconds left in the quarter.
BE LA: For those of you watching on TV, no Sparks fans didn’t go all LaLa. They were chanting “BE LA!” in response to hearing “BEAT LA!” everywhere the team goes around the WNBA. It was an inspirational pregame speech in introducing the new chant, but heard it didn’t translate on television. Sounded like the crowd was saying “Beat LA,” too. On the court, a sputtered start has the Storm down 6-5 with 4:55 remaining in the first quarter. One positive sign is Wauters moving around the court more to get better looks at the hoop.
ATTENDANCE WATCH: Yeah, LA would have done better its scheduled May game on Sunday than Tuesday. Winning helps, but a solid crowd reminiscent of the old Sparks days is in attendance. Many are part of the gospel night discount ticket deal, too.
SCOREBOARD: Oops. Guess New York can beat Indiana. Behind 25 points from Cappie Pondexter, the Liberty defeated the Fever 87-72. Washingtonian PG Leilani Mitchell had 13 points and three steals. Connecticut defeated Washington 94-86 while Tulsa remains winless after dropping its game to Phoenix 79-72. San Antonio is currently getting smothered by Minnesota 62-36. Expect the Silver Stars to deal with its lack of post play soon.
CONFESSION: Not that I’m not a spiritual person, but one of the reasons why I enjoy Gospel Nights around the WNBA is because the music selection, changes to funk or disco. Give me a pair of rollerskates and it’s on.
Seattle might want to save some of its shooting for the game. The team is on the court warming up for Sunday’s game against Los Angeles and hardly any shots are missing the hoop. A good sign given the Storm shot 38.9 percent from the field in a 13-point loss in May.
And that was when the Storm (1-3) had the ball. The team committed 19 turnovers for 24 Sparks points, adding to the list of reasons it didn’t win. Seattle is 0-2 in the five-game series with LA (4-1), in danger of giving up the tiebreaker if it drops the third Sunday.
Coach Brian Agler will again try to halt at least the turnovers, keeping veteran G Katie Smith in the starting lineup for an added ball handler when PG Sue Bird is pressured. Seattle cut its turnovers down to 11 in a win against Tulsa on Friday. The Shock forced 28 in loss to LA on Tuesday.
“But we’re going to have a lot of different looks out there,” Agler said in general of his lineups this season. The entire team has emphasized starting isn’t important given the talent on the roster. “We’re not set in stone. We’re just looking to keep making improvements.”
Reserve F Victoria Dunlap returned to the lineup, missing Friday’s matchup due to a concussion suffered in practice on Tuesday. Agler said she’s unlikely to play because there are still some lingering effects. Dunlap, who has only played in one game this season, mentioned having headaches on Saturday.
LA is without C Nicky Anosike and G Sharnee Zoll due to knee injuries. Anosike, a trade acquisition, underwent successful surgery on Wednesday.
“There’s no reason to really push anything,” Agler said of Dunlap. “We were here a couple of years ago, 2010, and Lauren (Jackson) got one and was out for a week.”
Today’s matchup will air on KONG beginning at 5:30 p.m. but I believe it’s the LA feed. Simulcast radio personalities Dick Fain and Adia Barnes with the telecast (while reading the blog) if you want that Storm flavor.
Here are your starting lineups:
F Katie Smith
F Camille Little
C Ann Wauters
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
F Nnemkadi Ogwumike
F DeLisha Milton-Jones
C Candace Parker
G Kristi Toliver
G Alana Beard
Tonight’s officials are Michael Price, Daryl Humphrey, and Tim Greene.