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Sparks avoid season-sweep with overtime thriller in Seattle

The Sparks defense smothers Jewell Loyd. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.
The Sparks defense smothers Jewell Loyd. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.
The Sparks defense smothers Jewell Loyd. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.

Seattle – In the waning moments of the third quarter on Tuesday afternoon, the Los Angeles Sparks seemed headed for their fourth loss in as many games.

A Breanna Stewart lay-up had given Seattle a 12-point lead — their largest of the game — and capped a 22-6 run, forcing Sparks head coach Brian Agler to call a time out.

Over the final 12-plus minutes of regulation, Los Angeles held the Storm to just 10 points (six in the final quarter), as they snapped a three-game skid with a 77-75 overtime victory. Candace Parker neared a triple-double to lead the Sparks, finishing with 21 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds, while Essence Carson came off the bench for 18 points, and Nneka Ogwumike scored 14.

“We didn’t play perfectly, but what matters is we played hard,” Ogwumike said. “That’s what we were really happy about.”

Natasha Howard had a team-high 18 points for Seattle and Stewart posted 14 points and 13 rebounds. Sue Bird added 13 point and eight assists.

In front of their first sell-out crowd of the season, the Storm had three chances on their final possession of overtime to force another five-minute period. But a Bird jumper with six seconds left bounced out, as did a shot from the free-throw line by Howard, and a put-back just before the buzzer by Stewart.

“I thought I had a good look to put it back,” Stewart said. “It was a little rushed because of the time, but I should have made the shot.”

Los Angeles led by seven after one quarter, and took a two-point lead into halftime by taking advantage of 14 Seattle turnovers in the first 20 minutes (en route to a season-high 21).

“I think that we were playing a little fast, not making the right reads,” said Storm forward Alysha Clark. “We made a focal point to take care of the ball for the rest of the game because they were scoring off our turnovers.”

It was Clark who came up big for Seattle in the third quarter, scoring all 12 of her points and pacing the team to a 60-50 advantage heading into the final period.

But that offensive outburst didn’t carry into the game’s closing minutes. An Alana Beard jumper with 1:15 to play capped the Sparks comeback at 66-66, with the Storm forcing overtime as a would-be game-winning fadeaway from Parker bounced out at the buzzer.

“I thought we came out in the third quarter and created a pace that we needed to play at but in the fourth, we had a hard time finishing,” said Seattle head coach Dan Hughes. “Our ability to offensively complement the flow of the game, we struggled a little bit. We just didn’t finish some plays that are typical for us.”

The Sparks outscored the Storm 11-9 in the extra period.

“We got stops, we made shots,” Carson said. “That last few seconds we were able to put a hand in their faces. In our losses recently we’ve missed too many easy shots. Today we executed, and we played defense.”

Agler said the compacted season took its toll on his team.

“It’s been a real grueling season,” he said. “We finally got our first complete day off in over three weeks a couple days ago, so I know exactly what (Seattle is) going through. We had to go through it ourselves, and we’re happy to come in her and get a win.”

The loss ended the Storm’s five-game winning streak, but a Phoenix loss to Dallas on Tuesday night meant that Seattle retained a one-game lead on first place in the WNBA.

Los Angeles now returns home to face the Wings on Thursday afternoon, while the Storm wraps up its three-game homestand on Saturday against Dallas.

Dribbles:

  • In the crowd: NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving sat courtside, the second time in as many years he’s taken in a Storm game.
  • Candace Parker tied a career-high with four steals.
  • Essence Carson grabbed her 700th career rebound.
  • Seattle’s six fourth quarter points tied a franchise-low for fewest points in the final period.
  • The win was Los Angeles’s first at KeyArena since 2015, snapping a six-game home winning streak for the Storm against the Sparks.
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