It was a sell-out crowd at the KeyArena as the league leading Seattle Storm took on West Coast rival Los Angeles Sparks in WNBA action.
With a strong verbal support from their fans the Storm overcame 21 turnovers to take the Sparks into overtime but they couldn’t pull off another last second attempt to tie and keep the game going as they lost 77-75.
“I think the story of the game, the only thing I mentioned to the team [was] I thought we fought hard,” said Seattle head coach Dan Hughes. “That’s the most turnovers we’ve had in any game all year. I thought (LA) really packed the lane. We didn’t shoot the ball effectively today and we played a little fast. I thought we made decisions with the basketball that were either deflected or were forced a little bit and that was us just not spacing and moving the ball one more possession and us trying to make something that really wasn’t quite there.”
Most of the Storm’s turnovers, which Los Angeles turned into 22 points, were early in the game and as they settled down Seattle was able to come back from seven down in the first quarter to end the half within two at 34-36.
After playing on Sunday and having an early start to their day some of what the Storm was dealing with may be that they were trying too hard.
“I think sometimes having such a quick turnaround, having a noon start we’re trying to really get [ourselves] going,” said Seattle forward Breanna Stewart. “And sometimes you’re going too much and your acting a little too crazy because we’re not used to this start. We wanted to make sure that we had some type of energy.”
The Storm continued to work towards finding their shots and as they came out of halftime it became another great third quarter that saw them looking to make the game their own.
The third saw Seattle end the quarter with only one turnover and guard Alysha Clark go on a scoring tear.
Clark scored 12 of the team’s 14 points in the third as she made moves offensively and defensively to create scoring opportunities.
“Well, I mean she’s fought too and how many deflections does she create plays out of her defense,” said Hughes. “That’s what she does so well and Sue [Bird] did a good job of us playing to Alysha near the basket, step-ins and flex action, things we do out of our offense. She really played well both ends in regards to that. She’s a really tough guard near the basket but she was also creating offense out of her defense.”
The Storm ended the third outscoring Los Angeles 26-14 and headed into the final quarter with a 10-point lead 60-50 and the crowd loudly behind them.
But as great as the team looked in the third they once again found shot opportunities in the fourth but couldn’t get them to fall into the basket ending the quarter with just six points while the Sparks shot 16 and the game was tied at the end of regulation 66-66.
“I thought we got good shots,” said Clark. “We took 69 shots and were getting the looks that we want they just didn’t go down today and sometimes it’s that way. Sometimes you hit them, sometimes you don’t. But you know we’re not discouraged by that.”
Overtime saw both teams working hard to get their shots to drop and it continued to be a physical game between two teams both determined to get the win.
But the Storm had the final chance to tie the game and send it into double overtime. After center Natasha Howard brought them to within two points after hitting a free throw Seattle set their play during a timeout and with 13.7 left they set their play in motion.
“We had had the ball on the sidelines, out of bounds and I was pinning down for Sue [Bird] and her intention was to curl around me and kind of hit my defender so that I could pop out, I didn’t think I had the shot,” said Stewart. “So, then I drove baseline and passed to Sue, she shot it…we were able to get the rebound, Tash [Natasha Howard] threw it up, and I mean, I had a good look to put it back. I think it was a little rushed just because of the time I’m not sure exactly how much I had but I should have made it and then we would have gone into double overtime.”
It was a shot that teammate Clark said she’d put Stewart in to make 10 times out of 10, but with the miss the Storm saw another normally made shot fall short.
“Our ability to offensively kind of complement the flow of the game, we struggled a little bit [with that],” said Hughes. “We just didn’t finish some plays that [are] kind of typical for us. Overtime was a back and forth affair. I thought we got a couple good looks – we scored nine in the overtime coming out of it but it was, you know, it was a tough, hard fought, very physical game.”
The loss dropped Seattle to 15-6 but still in first, a game ahead of the Phoenix Mercury who lost to the Dallas Wings later that night.
For Los Angeles, who was lead by center Candace Parker’s double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds, the win put their record at 13-8 and in fourth place behind the Washington Mystics. The Sparks know getting a win at the Key is a tough one but they know that this league means things change quickly and road wins are big.
“They’re the first place team so right now they’re the measuring stick of where all of us want to be,” said Parker. “For whatever that’s worth in this league … this is crazy since we were in first maybe a week ago. Things change, but all you can do is play the team that’s in front of you…there are things that we can do differently, but we came out with the win.”
The Storm was led by center Howard’s 18 points and five blocked shots, a new season high. Also scoring in double figures were Stewart with 14 and 13 rebounds, Clark with 12 points and guard Sue Bird with 13 points and eight assists.
The Sparks had five players score in double figures including Parker. Essence Carson came off the bench to score 18 while starters Nneka Ogwumike had 14 and Alana Beard and Chelsea Gray each scored 11 points.
Seattle gets a few days rest before finishing off this homestand against the Dallas Wings. The game starts at 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 14, at the KeyArena.