Sparks eliminate Storm in 92-69 win

Chelsea Gray faces the Storm defense. Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.
Chelsea Gray faces the Storm defense. Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.

The Los Angeles Sparks surged in the fourth quarter of their playoff quarterfinal match up with the Seattle Storm Sunday for a convincing 92-69 win.

Los Angeles advanced to the WNBA semifinals, and defending champion Seattle was eliminated in the single-game round. Chelsea Gray led four Sparks players in double figures with 21 points and eight assists, while Nneka Ogwumike had 17 points.

The Storm got out to a quick start, thanks to 12 first-quarter points from Natasha Howard and six from Jordin Canada. But their hosts locked down and kept both scoreless in the second and fourth periods, while mounting a lead in the second and third, paced by Gray. Los Angeles outscored their opponents 25-11 in the final frame.

Howard had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Seattle, with three others in double figures including Canada, who had 10.

Ogwumike said the team took the time to make numerous adjustments at halftime.

“Before the coaches came in, we discussed a lot about how what we were doing was good. There were a few little things here and there that we needed to make sure we could take advantage of,” Ogwumike said.

I think we have seen the last few games, even outside of the playoffs, how aggressive Jordin Canada has been playing. She got to us in the first half, and we wanted to make sure that we could clog up that paint in transition a little bit more, and then offensively we had to move the ball, and move our bodies.”

Storm coach Dan Hughes said his team, which has been short-handed all season long with injuries, grappled with a healthy Los Angeles.

“I thought we ran out of gas a little bit,” he said. “I think it’s a little bit of a testimony to their depth. I thought we played three pretty good quarters. I thought we really battled. A lot of things we were hoping to achieve we were achieving… but they keep constant pressure on you and we lost a little of the attack nature that had really served us well in the three quarters.”

The No. 3 Sparks face the No. 2 Connecticut Sun in Uncasville Tuesday, in the first of a five-game series. Gray said her team will need to remain focused.

“I think we’re going to have to continue to do the little things on both sides of the ball defensively…..playing that transition defense and make people play against our half court,” she said. “Then offensively, spacing. Running ourselves in execution, spacing, pace, and moving our bodies. I think we’ll be in great shape if we just do the things that we talked about.”