Storm losing streak reaches five games after 77-69 loss to Sparks
A key run to end the third quarter breaks it open as the Sparks solidify their hold on the fourth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference while the Storm’s hopes fade.
Seattle Times staff reporter
There’s wasn’t a playoff atmosphere at KeyArena on Saturday afternoon but there were plenty of postseason implications in Seattle’s game against Los Angeles.
The Storm entered the matchup two games behind the Sparks for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. L.A. owned the head-to-head tiebreaker against Seattle, having already won the previous three matchups.
But with the Sparks on a three-game losing streak, there was an opportunity for the Storm to remain within striking distance.
A key L.A. run to end the third quarter likely ended those hopes.
The Sparks used the momentum to propel themselves to a 77-69 win, ending their losing streak and extending the Storm skid to five games.
“I don’t know what to say about this game,” said Storm forward Crystal Langhorne, who led her team with 21 points and eight rebounds.
The Storm shot 39.1 percent and allowed L.A. to score 20 points off 14 turnovers. Forward Nneka Ogwumike led the Sparks with 22 points. Reigning MVP Candace Parker scored 13 of her 19 points in the second half.
Seattle (9-18) sealed its second losing season under coach Brian Agler since he was hired in 2008. The Storm, which had made the playoffs a WNBA-record 10 consecutive seasons, will likely miss out this year.
Phoenix and Minnesota have already clinched postseason berths in the Western Conference. Seattle is three games back of Los Angeles with seven games remaining.
“This season has been a test, it’s testing all of us,” said Storm forward Camille Little. “But our response is going to be to keep fighting until the very end. We could still make the playoffs, which is the crazy part.”
Seattle trailed 44-42 with 4:29 left in the third quarter when Little committed a turnover in the paint. L.A. took advantage of the error, closing on a 10-2 run for a 54-44 lead headed into the fourth quarter.
The Storm was 4 of 19 from the field in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Parker made all three of her shots for eight points.
L.A. (11-14) is 1-2 since general manager Penny Toler fired coach Carol Ross on Sunday and assumed the position herself, Toler’s first coaching stint on any level.
“It feels good,” said Toler, who will only coach the remainder of this season before finding a replacement. “We needed the win. (The Sparks players) have been working hard, so I’m proud of them.”
Storm guard Sue Bird returned to the lineup on Saturday, finishing with 10 points in 25 minutes. She missed Thursday’s overtime loss to New York due to a strained neck.
Guard Temeka Johnson replaced Bird in the lineup on Thursday and recorded the franchise’s first triple-double. Johnson had nine points, six rebounds and four assists in 19 minutes off the bench on Saturday.
Seattle leaves Sunday for a road game at Tulsa on Tuesday. The Shock (8-17) split two games against the Storm this season and is also three games behind Los Angeles.
“This is the first time we’re going through this, at least since I’ve been here,” said Agler of only having won nine games so late in the season. “In a lot of ways our foundation is the same that it has been over the course of seven years and it has been proven to work (so) we’re going to keep moving forward.”