The Seattle Storm came back from down 21 points to defeat the Los Angeles Sparks Tuesday night at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, becoming the final WNBA team to earn their first win of the 2023 season behind 25 points from league leading scorer Jewell Loyd, who became the third individual to ever reach 4,000 points in a Storm jersey in the third quarter. Sue Bird (6,803 career points) and Lauren Jackson (6,005) are the other two.
The 21-point comeback ranks second in Storm history.
With the Storm (1-4) up three and 10 seconds remaining, Ezi Magbegor blocked a Nneka Ogwumike reverse layup attempt and LA (3-3) was unable to foul until about four seconds remaining, at which point it chose not to foul Loyd, who was 13-of-14 at the stripe on the evening.
It was a disappointing ending for the Sparks, who led 27-6, but turned the ball over 23 times. Lexie Brown was key to the hot start, but took an ill-advised deep three with plenty of time on the shot clock at 43 seconds remaining instead of getting the ball to Nneka, who again led the way for LA with 22 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.
Loyd added eight boards and three helpers to her stat line. She is averaging 28 points per game on the season.
With 1:29 remaining, the Storm nearly stole an entry pass intended for Nneka, but Nneka caught it and laid it up to cut it to 66-63, which would end up being the final score. Magbegor (13 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two swipes, three rejections) went 2-of-2 at the stripe at 1:39 to make it 66-61. Prior to that, the teams exchanged missed bunnies back and forth for a stretch, missing two each.
A deep three made by Brown cut LA’s deficit to 63-60 with 3:42 to go and set up the nail-biting ending. A layup by rookie Jordan Horston, who finished with career highs of 14 points, seven boards and four steals, had gotten Seattle’s lead back up to its game-high of six at 63-57 with 4:08 left.
Storm rookie Jordan Horston had a message for everybody at the end of a fun-spirited postgame press conference with Jewell Loyd: "If nobody told you, somebody loves you," and "You are loved," noting she missed saying that during Mental Health Awareness Month in May.— Kevin Pelton (@kpeltonWBB) June 7, 2023
A Jordin Canada 3-point play cut the Sparks’ deficit to one with 8:08 to play, but Magbegor answered with a three from the right corner and then rookie Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu made the first field goal of her career to make it 59-53 Storm.
Loyd had 11 points in the third. She opened the frame’s scoring with a floater that cut her team’s deficit to 38-37. She later made an acrobatic short shot from the left baseline to give Seattle a 46-44 lead. She then closed the frame’s scoring with a pull-up three that moved the Storm’s advantage to 52-48. Her other four points in the third came on a 4-of-4 effort at the free throw line, which included the freebie that gave Seattle its first lead of the contest at 41-40 and the freebie after that on the same trip, which gave her 4,000.
Loyd went on a 5-2 individual run to cut LA’s lead to 15 at the 5:10 mark of the second. She got the ball off a jump ball and dropped in a fast break layup before being fouled on a 3-point attempt and making all three free throws — she would accomplish the latter feat twice in the contest. Later, a couple of Storm steals turned into a couple of Magbegor layups, the second of which came on her own pick-6 and cut Seattle’s deficit to 34-23.
LA had some pretty baskets down the stretch of the second (a Canada dish to Nneka for a layup and a Brown floater that went through the basket and was almost nothing but air), but the Storm went into the break on a 6-0 run. Ivana Dojkic made a three that cut it to 38-32 and then, just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse for the Sparks, Azurá Stevens fouled Loyd on a 3-point attempt at the buzzer of the first half. Loyd again made all three free throws to cut it to 38-35.
Two threes from Brown and a three and a floater from Layshia Clarendon highlighted the 19-2 Sparks run that opened the contest. Also, Stevens, who had been out with a back injury, scored her first four points of the season in the opening frame, and Nneka added five.
Canada highlighted the early part of the second quarter with a three that put the Sparks up 27-6 and a scoop layup while falling down that put them up 29-10. She added a free throw after that layup.
Brown managed 15 points and two swipes in defeat while Canada added 11 points and five helpers for LA.
Seattle won despite shooting just 32.4 percent from the field and just 4-of-20 from downtown. It won second-chance points 11-0 and fast break points 15-2.
Loyd now stands at 4,008 career points.