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The Sparks' Slump is No Reason for the Storm to Relax at Home Tonight

Reasonable people could probably agree that the Seattle Storm are likely to defeat the Los Angeles Sparks tonight in Seattle.

Tonight’s game will be the Sparks’ fourth road game of a very long road trip. The Sparks are 1-7 on the road this season and have lost 3 of 4 games since demolishing the Storm 82-55 in Los Angeles on June 28. Lisa Leslie is still out due to injury, Candace Parker is back but still looks out of sync. And if you watched their last two games (road losses to the Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun), the whole team still looks like they are trying to figure each other out.

In contrast, the Storm have three All-Star starters. One of those All-Stars, Lauren Jackson, appears to be returning to action tonight after missing two games due to injury. Tanisha Wright just seems to be getting better by the game. They have won two games in a row after dropping two straight opportunities at home, but they have not necessarily played their best basketball.

And oh yeah, it’s Cram the Key night…and it’s difficult to imagine a tougher atmosphere to play in than those Key Area fans yelling Beat LA.

But I suppose the fact that the cards are stacked against the Sparks is exactly what might give someone who’s watched the Storm at home recently reason for pause.

The Storm have this bad habit of playing about 1.5 quarters of good basketball and spending the other 2.5 quarters MIA. Compounding the problem, is that it is not always two consecutive quarters either, which means it can be difficult to gain momentum.

In other words, they don’t need additional reason to relax.

How the Sparks beat the Storm in LA

The best way to explain how the Sparks beat the Storm in LA is to simply say LA outworked and outhustled them. From the AP report:
"We really contested all their shots, ran them off the 3-point line, we double-teamed Lauren every time she got it on the pass,'' Sparks coach Michael Cooper said. "Whenever we're moving around defensively, it creates easy offense for us."
Aside from the Lauren comment, the same analysis could be applied to how the Shock beat the Storm.

However, aside from what the opponents have done to the Storm, part of the problem is what the Storm are doing: letting opponents shoot well over 50% for two or three quarters of the game. While the Storm allowed the Sky to over 50% in every quarter (as high as 69.2% in that second quarter), both the Sky and the Shock shot over 50% -- and perhaps more importantly better than the Storm – in both games.

Against the Lynx, the Storm did better limiting them to 33% shooting in the fourth, but the Storm’s comeback could be attributed as much to the Lynx’s own inability to protect the ball. Minnesota had eight fourth quarter turnovers, two of them horrible passes intercepted by Wright, which led to a turnover percentage of 44.94%.

So the argument that the Storm can coast and turn it on in the fourth falls apart a bit when considering the Lynx game – they cannot count on putting together an solid half quarter and hoping the opposition falls apart. Somehow they have to put together a whole game.

Last, it’s hard not to wonder when will Candace Parker finally find a groove and prove to be a real threat to be reckoned with rather than a potential threat to be aware of?

I think that has more to do with Parker than anything the Storm can prepare for…but does anybody really want to be that team that Parker went off on for the first time in 2009?