Sparks blowout the Seattle Storm, secure spot in postseason

Los Angeles overwhelmed the Seattle Storm in a game that was full of playoff implications.

Candace Parker
Candace Parker led the Sparks in scoring as they rolled over the Seattle Storm. (Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast / AP)

Los Angeles has secured the third spot in the playoffs with this win against the Seattle Storm. Los Angeles will have a first-round bye and then will face off with the lowest remaining seed that survives the first round.

With Los Angeles being 14-2 at home this season, they have an extra boost in their ability to take care of home court in the second round.

“Solidifying that third seed, it gives us a home game so that’s going to be important for us,” Nneka Ogwumike said.

The Sparks dominated the Seattle Storm 102-68 with a complete, balanced effort from all players and a season-high in points on Thursday evening.

It was a Sparks takeover for the most part with them outscoring the Storm in each quarter holding the Storm to an average of 17 points throughout the quarters.

“I think we did a good job of not taking our foot off the gas,” said Candace Parker about the Sparks momentum throughout the game.

Stars led the way

Nneka Ogwumike returned to the floor after sitting out of the Atlanta game due to load management. Ogwumike looked sprier against Seattle and was efficient in her game minutes.

Ogwumike said that she felt great coming into the game and that showed on the floor. It didn’t take too long for her to get in a groove as she had four points in the opening quarter and took advantage of the various in-game rest moments.

“I’m glad that we had everybody today, including myself,” Ogwumike said.

Ogwumike notched her 12th double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds all in her 17 minutes of play.

Parker scored a team-leading 20 points with nine rebounds.

Though she missed a portion of games this season due to ailments, Parker has been in better shape since she has returned in the second half of the season. It might not have been her best year, but she’s been trying to make the best of it by her output on the floor.

Whether it was her baseball pass to Ogwumike or being on the receiving end of a nifty a Chelsea Gray pass or taking matters into her own hands, Parker was always ready to help make winning plays.

Gray gave a nominal performance that has been shown all through the season and finished just one assist shy of a double-double.

Gray had 12 points on 50 percent shooting and nine assists.

After playing 40 minutes against the Atlanta Dream, Gray’s minutes against the Seattle Storm fell just under 30 minutes. With her on the floor, the Sparks will always in a position to be successful.

In Gray’s drop in minutes against the Storm, there were more opportunities for back-ups to have time on the floor and build on what she and the starters have begun.

“It’s good to have not just everyone out there, but everyone contributing,” Ogwumike said. “It was really a healthy win.”

A stay-ready bench

“Once you hear that it’s your time to go in, you get back into the flow and keep it simple,” said Sydney Wiese.

Wiese was the first bench player to be called to the floor in the opening quarter and went on a personal six-point run to extend an early lead. Wiese even had a block with under a minute to go in the first.

The bench, especially picked up the energy and production late in the second half to keep Seattle at bay while extending the Sparks lead.

The Sparks bench outscored the Storm bench 45-22 with Chiney Ogwumike and Maria Vadeeva contributing 12 points apiece.

Alexis Jones, Marina Mabrey, and Kalani Brown each had moments to shine. With rookies Mabrey and Brown, playing had been hard to come by in recent games, but Fisher was able to manage the minutes so that they would get opportunities on the floor. Brown ended the game with an and-one to seal the Sparks fate.

Defense setting the tone

“I think TRP sums it up,” said head coach Derek Fisher about the Sparks setting the defensive tone early. “That’s who has become the person that establishes our defensive identity.”

If it was not for Tierra Ruffin-Pratt eliminating the Seattle guards from being a factor, this could have been a different game.

Even when she’s not scoring much, her presence on the defensive end is more of a necessity for the Sparks. Hunkering down, getting stops, and disrupting the opponents’ offense has worked for the Sparks when they capitalize on it.

Her play on the floor is what sparked Los Angeles to sustain pressure on Seattle as they only allowed them 68 points on 34.8 percent shooting.

“I think my teammates look for me to do that and I think it helps them put a lot of pressure on their players as well,” said Ruffin-Pratt about her teammates looking for her to set the tone early.

Ruffin-Pratt nabbed four steals to go along with six points, two rebounds, and two assists.

The defense that the Sparks displayed in the second quarter hindered Natasha Howard from getting it going.

The Sparks scored their second-highest scoring total in the paint with 74 points within league history and the most in Sparks history.

Los Angeles (21-12) will look to end their regular on a good note by extending their home winning streak to 14 and finishing with a (notable season stat).

The Sparks will play the Minnesota Lynx in their regular-season finale on Sunday at 1 p.m. PT.

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