The Los Angeles Sparks came to Seattle last night in what came down to be a thrilling finish. Coached by former Seattle Storm coach Brian Agler, the Sparks took the team down to the wire.
The Sparks were led by Candace Parker’s 27 points, and outside of taking advantage of some careless turnovers on Parker’s part, the Storm didn’t have an answer.
By the start of the fourth quarter, the game got tight. The Sparks did all they could in disrupting Stewart so she couldn’t get consistently set up.
Natasha Howard nailed a layup off of an offensive rebound to give the Storm a 65-61 lead, but after a timeout, she flew towards Candace Parker and fouled her on a three-point shot. It ended up being Howard’s fifth, and she had to take a seat. Parker would go on to make all three free throw shots, but she wouldn’t score for the rest of the game.
The Storm actively looked for Breanna Stewart every time they came down the court, and she overcame whatever the defense gave her. She hit a three point shot to put seattle up 73-64, and the team didn’t look back.
In the final quarter, Stewart totaled 11 points and ended the game with 27 points.
The Sparks just couldn’t buy a bucket before Riquana Williams nailed a deep three to cut the lead to six. Altogether, Los Angeles only got about three good looks from the floor as the Storm seriously turned up the defensive intensity.
While Stewart played phenomenally down the stretch, Sue Bird really tied the whole performance together. She remained insanely active on the defensive end, getting her hand seemingly on every pass until she finally ended up with a crucial steal and assist to give the Storm a timely lead.
With about a minute and a half left in the game, Bird took a handoff and dribbled down to the free throw line and put the game away by nailing a jumper. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Jewell Loyd stole the ball and snagged a couple free throw shots after a foul.
Besides clutch time, there was a ton to like out of the Storm tonight. The team never stopped pushing the ball up the court. At this point in the season, the Storm have embraced the high tempo offense that comes with playing for Hughes, and it especially pays dividends off of every defensive rebound in fastbreak situations.
Starting to lose track of our fastbreak points ? pic.twitter.com/WvMjNlMLO7
— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) June 29, 2018
Also I get the feeling that teams facing the Storm should start thinking about throwing a second body at Natasha Howard. She had a couple of hiccups in crunch time after her timely layup, but throughout the game she was grabbing offensive boards and coming from everywhere to score. If Stewart, Bird, and Loyd are all on point, then Howard pretty much does whatever she wants out there and it’s really fun to watch, because she’s so good. She finished with 6 offensive rebounds.
Lastly, the Storm really put their passing on display by compiling 24 assists. Bird tallied 11, and Alysha Clark even managed to nab four of them. The Sparks only had eight assists for the entire game, and both teams amassed 12 turnovers each.
The next game for the Storm is on Sunday against the Connecticut Sun at the Key Arena. The Storm won back on June 15th, when Howard scored 25 points. Chiney Ogwumike leads the Sun with 15.7 points per game and will have to score a lot more to keep up with this version of the Storm.