Seattle, WA — What a welcome home for the Seattle Storm.
All decked out in pink for Breast Health Awareness night, the Storm came to the home court pumped and ready from an Olympic hiatus. With a packed house, the fans roared as the Storm took center stage to face off against the Sparks.
Almost immediately, Sue Bird took charge of the floor. On a Rio high, Bird kicked off the ball game with a beautiful three. The Storm quickly grabbed a seven-point lead, while the Sparks looked a bit rusty from the long break.
“I think we sat around for six weeks and everybody told us how good we were and I think we softened up,” said Sparks Head Coach Brian Agler.
With Nneka Ogwumike as the only player putting up points, Los Angeles fell quickly behind, as the Storm rose to the occasion.
Bird stayed on that high, grabbing shot after shot from downtown to put the team at a nine-point edge. The Sparks played exceptional defense, getting the steals and blocking some shots, but their inability to score failed to support their defensive efforts.
Following such a high first quarter came a fairly sloppy second quarter. Within the first couple minutes the teams committed four fouls, and they just kept coming after that. Each team with seven personal fouls, they really needed to pull themselves together to put out a good ball game.
After some hiccups, the Sparks were able to pick back up their sharp defense, slowing the home team. They could tell their opponents were getting tired and took full advantage.
The Storm’s FG percentage dropped from 50% to 37%, and Breanna Stewart was nowhere to be found on the scoreboard. With zero points in the first half, it seemed almost vital for her to pick up her game, as the Sparks caught up to Seattle closing in the first half not too far behind at 31-28.
Going into the second half, Seattle made it pretty clear that they recouped during the break. Jewell Loyd and Bird came in with back-to-back three’s, followed by Stewart with her first shot of the night. Within two minutes, the Sparks called a time out. And just like that, the Storm were back up to an 11-point lead.
This ignited a fire in Los Angeles, and things started to get real intense on the floor. They pushed and pushed on defense, however, any open shot left to the Storm made it in. That was a fact. A big mistake was leaving the Storm open beyond the arc, as Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Noelle Quinn grabbed two three’s within 30 seconds.
And the train did not stop there. The Storm kept on rollin’ in the fourth as they relentlessly plowed through to the basket, whether driving on offense or stealing on defense. The difference in this game was that the Storm looked unitized, and the Sparks did not.
“We knew we had to come back and make a push here and this was a team win tonight,” said Loyd.
With this unity, the Storm rained down until the end, defeating the Los Angeles Sparks, 79-72.
“This was a huge win for us. After a long break you never really know what it’s going to be like when you step on the court again,” said Bird. “It’s great that it was against a great team because we get to measure up to them, and they have their record for a reason, but a win is a win and we really need them right now.”
Crystal Langhorne was the leading scorer for the Storm with 16 points, 10 rebounds followed by Bird and Loyd both with 15 points.
Ogwumike led the Sparks with 28 points, seven rebounds followed by Jantel Lavender with 14 points, four rebounds.