For the second straight game the Seattle Storm (3-3) nearly blew a 15+ point lead, but they held on by the skin of their teeth as Nneka Ogwumike’s three point attempt at the buzzer was too strong off of the rim. The Los Angeles Sparks (2-4) had to overcome a 10-point half time deficit but still lost 83-80 in Seattle, Wash.
Ogwumike got a wide open shot at the end from the corner opposite Seattle’s bench. And that was the result of the Sparks quickly getting down the court after Jewell Lloyd had missed a three from the corner and they came down with the defensive board. A pair of Sue Bird free throws with 45.5 left on the clock were ultimately the deciding factor in this game; if she’d missed them, LA wouldn’t have had to jack up a three and could have drove the lane for a layup. Bird finished the night with eight points on three of ten from the field (on of four from beyond the arc) and eight assist.
Breanna Stewart led all scorers with 28 points. The forward was one of two Storm players in double digits; meanwhile Los Angeles had two players score 20+ on the night — the already mentioned Ogwumike (20) and Liz Cambage (25).
Los Angeles started the fourth quarter by cutting the Storm’s lead down to seven with a three pointer from Chennedy Carter, a mid-range jumper from Cambage, and a 14-footer from Brittney Sykes. The only Seattle player to score in that stretch was Briann January. Epiphanny Prince made her presence felt in the final frame when she was fouled on a jumper of her own and then sank the and-one to complete the three point play. But the Storm’s offense continued to miss shots, or wasted excellent opportunities; one of those opportunities came when Gabby Williams was wide open in the corner but it took too long for the ball to get to the guard…the three pointer was nothing but net but the shot was made after the shot clock had already expired.
As for the third quarter, both sides started off hot and it seemed like they’d never miss a bucket. But then the Storm cooled off with about six minutes left in the half. Ezi Megbegor was the only player able to generate any offense for a two minute stretch of the third frame — she hit the second of two free throws. Because of Seattle’s struggles on offense, LA was able to claw its way back into the game.
It was a more competitive second quarter, but at first it didn’t look like it would be as Seattle scored five of the first seven points in the frame to make it 34-18. After the Magbegor layup that pushed the lead to 16, that the the Sparks began to figure it out at the same time as Seattle’s hot shooting cooled down. Over the next five minutes and 14 seconds, LA outscored the Storm two-to-one to cut the lead down to seven at 34-41 — that stretch included a 11-0 run for Los Angeles.
Ogwumike and Canada were the cogs that drove the comeback for their squad. A three by the Stanford alum with 4:58 left came on an offensive possession that had resulted from a blocked shot and some brilliant offensive boards. As for Canada, the former Storm point guard was a consistent presence with her passes and a dangerous shot once she got inside the key.
Seattle would respond with an 8-0 run of its own to push its lead back out to 15. But that wouldn’t last long as the offense went cold in the final two minutes and 14 seconds while the Sparks offense continued to chip away at the lead. The final bucket of the first half was an and-one by Okgwumike after she drew a foul on a layup; that made free throw made it 51-41 Seattle with 38.3 left in the second quarter.
Stewart made her presence felt early on when she took a beautiful feed from Lloyd and hit a layup from right under the net, then completed the three point play when she sank the and-one. Magbegor picked off a bad pass from Sykes that turned into a Williams three six seconds later. Los Angeles’ first points of the game came off of a Cambage jumper to make it 6-2 Storm. But a Williams jump shot pushed the lead back out to six.
That run in the first 84 seconds of the game pretty much marked out the entirety of the first quarter as Seattle ripped off a 20-8 run that ate up the first five minutes and 52 seconds of the game. While the final four minutes and eight seconds would be closer, the Storm took a 29-19 lead into the first intermission.
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Photo Credit: Seattle Storm