It may have been easy for the Storm to double-down on Phoenix star DeWanna Bonner, holding her to a season-low seven points. Seattle used that defense to get out in transition and use crisp passing (season-high 24 assists) to collect a 72-58 win Thursday.
But that kind of hustle may not work against Los Angeles All-Star Candace Parker. The Storm (10-10) is 0-4 against the Sparks (15-6) going into Saturday’s game at KeyArena. Parker has had some of her best games of the season against the rival, including scoring 21 points with 10 rebounds and six blocks in the second game of the season. LA won 74-61. In the last meeting, Parker finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists to help give the Sparks a 83-59 win.
C Ann Wauters was out in that game due to her Achilles injury. F Tina Thompson suffered her knee and ankle injury during the game and PG Sue Bird was out due to a strained hip flexor. Of course Lauren Jackson was missing, prepping for the Olympics with her native Australia.
And all four of those players could be out, again. Bird is recovering from stomach flu while Wauters’ left Achilles is taking longer than hoped to heal. She may participate in warmups with the team, but will not play.
Thompson played 15 minutes against Phoenix, but she and coach Brian Agler want to see how the injury responds before guaranteeing any minutes Saturday. Jackson remains in Australia.
Add that Los Angeles has had a week to prepare with Parker — this is the Sparks’ first game after the Olympic break — and it could get a little ugly at the Key. Fans can wish upon a Lauren Jackson bobblehead that LA takes mercy.
That won’t happen. There’s always heat between the teams and the Sparks are competing against San Antonio for at least second in the Western Conference. That position means homecourt advantage in the first round of a best-of-three game series. The Silver Stars (14-5) are on a 10-game winning streak.
The positives for Seattle going into the LA matchup are the strengthening play of the Storm bench and G Tanisha Wright’s solid play at the point in place of Bird. Wright could fill the spot again Saturday with reserve Svetlana Abrosimova starting to replace Bird. Polish C Ewelina Kobryn will continue to start in place of Wauters.
“The break really helped Tanisha,” Agler said. Wright had eight assists against the Mercury. “She got healthier. She had a good 2-1/2 weeks of practice. (Thursday) is sort of what we’re used to seeing out of Tanisha — steals, assists, not many turnovers, making defensive plays. We need that to continue.”
LA started this season of twisting the WNBA fan-favorite “BEAT LA!” to “BE LA!” before the league’s Olympic hiatus. Let’s see if Seattle can mimic the success of LA and finally get a win in the finale of a five-game series.
There are two other games around the WNBA. New York (7-12) and Connecticut (15-5) finish a home-and-home stand. The Liberty defeated the Sun 79-66 at home on Thursday. Sun F Asjha Jones is out after suffering a left Achilles strain prior to participating in her first Olympic Games.
Indiana (11-7) hosts Atlanta (10-10). Brazilian C Erika de Souza is back from Olympic play to boost the Dream’s inside game and the league’s leading scorer, Angel McCoughtry (22.8 points), looks inspired from her standout play for Team USA at the London Olympics.
The Fever is 2-1 against the Dream this season.
*PHOTO CREDIT: Staples Center arena graphic displayed at Seattle versus LA game by Jayda Evans