In front of a nationally televised audience on ESPN2, the Seattle Storm absolutely destroyed the Los Angeles Sparks in what must be considered a statement victory early into the WNBA season. LA looks to be in prime position to go back to the WNBA Finals for a 3rd straight year, especially with the Minnesota Lynx struggling right now. The Sparks have a dominant front court in Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike to go along with talented guards Chelsea Gray and Odyssey Sims. The Sparks also have one of the best head coaches in the league in Brian Agler. Storm fans are familiar with Agler as he helped lead Seattle to their 2010 WNBA Championship and more recently helped the Sparks capture their 3rd WNBA title in 2016. To say that this would be a tough test in LA for the up and coming Storm, would not be an understatement.
The Sparks, one of the most talented teams in the league, were locked down by the Storm’s excellent defense all game long. Los Angeles only shot 37% from the floor for the game and was held to just nine first quarter points. Seattle used aggressive defense and a fast paced offense to go up 24-9 after one period. The Sparks rallied in the second quarter and cut Seattle’s lead down to eight at one point, but they would never get any closer than that. Seattle held onto a nine point half-time lead at 42-33. The bench got a good amount of playing time in the 2nd quarter and were able to hold their own for the most part.
Fortunately for Seattle, the Storm’s impressive first quarter was replicated in the 3rd quarter, which allowed Seattle to completely pull away from the Sparks. The Storm scored 31 points in the third period and outscored LA 31-20 to give themselves a 20 point lead heading to the final frame. Coach Brian Agler had seen enough and pulled his star players for the 4th quarter. With the reserves playing the entire fourth quarter, Los Angeles only managed to scored 10 points. Seattle finished this game strong, outscoring Los Angeles 46-30 in the 2nd half, on their way to an impressive 88-63 victory.
While the Sparks are known for having the best front court duo in the WNBA in Parker and Ogwumike, it was Seattle’s front court that absolutely dominated this game on Thursday night. Breanna Stewart and Natasha Howard have been excellent all season long so far, and they both played well in Los Angeles. Stewie finished the game with 16 points and five rebounds. Howard was even more impressive in this game, as she was extremely active on both sides of the floor. On offense, Howard was cutting to the basket for easy opportunities and also made some difficult shots from outside the paint. On defense, Howard did an excellent job guarding the Sparks post players. Howard finished with 16 points, a game-high 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. But it was Alysha Clark’s impressive performance that may have been a huge key to the Storm’s dominant victory.
Clark had a team high 17 points on 4-5 FG shooting and 8-8 from the foul line. Clark finished the 3rd quarter with an impressive barrage of points as she took advantage of the mismatch she had over the Sparks’ Sydney Wiese. Clark scored 12 of Seattle’s final 14 points in the final three minutes of the third quarter as she was able to dominate down low for easy layups and free throw opportunities. The trio of Clark, Howard, and Stewart combined for 49 points.
With the victory, Seattle moves into 2nd place in the WNBA standings with a 6-2 record; only trailing the 6-1 Connecticut Sun who needed a 3-point buzzer beater to beat New York on Thursday. Seattle has started the season 3-1 on the road, with their lone loss coming in Dallas last Saturday. This is also Seattle’s 2nd blowout victory in the past three games, which seems to show the team is starting to find their groove and build upon their chemistry. The additions of Howard, Paris, and Canada have all made contributions and it appears to have pushed Seattle to the upper echelon of the WNBA.
We are roughly a quarter of the way into the WNBA season and for the first time I feel confident in saying the Storm look like legit contenders for the WNBA title. With the Minnesota Lynx struggling (3-5) and victories over the Sparks, Mercury and Mystics, the Storm may have a deep enough and balanced team to bring Seattle its third WNBA Championship at the end of this year. And while that may be getting ahead of ourselves a little bit, a 25 point road victory over the WNBA Finals runner-ups is a pretty loud statement to make.
Jordin Canada returned home to Los Angles where she was the star player in college at UCLA. Canada received a very loud ovation as she entered the game late in the first quarter. Canada had over 70 friends and family there to cheer her on, including her parents and her former UCLA teammates. While Canada did not shoot the ball well (she went 0-5), she did finish with four points and four assists and made some really nice passing plays in front of her home crowd.
The Storm return home to Seattle for a five game home stand starting on Sunday 06/10 at 4:00pm against the Atlanta Dream. Seattle can really set themselves up for great playoff positioning if they’re able to take 4 out of their next 5 games at home.