The Los Angeles Sparks made a surprising change to their starting lineup today, inserting rookie center Jantel Lavender and third-year guard Kristi Toliver in place of certain Hall of Famers Ticha Penicheiro and Tina Thompson.
And for the most part, it was effective as the Sparks took a slim 39-38 advantage into halftime against the Seattle Storm at KeyArena.
Without center Lauren Jackson, the Storm struggled to stop taller post players on their recent road trip and the 6-foot-4 Lavender had some success early with her unexpected start. Lavender grabbed a team-high five rebounds and scored eight points on 3-for-6 shooting, scoring over Storm defenders in addition to getting two re throw attempts. DeLisha Milton-Jones did some damage in the post as well scoring a team-high nine points.
For the Storm, Tanisha Wright is leading the way with a game-high 12 points but the whole team is doing a good job at remaining aggressive and getting to the free throw line at a higher rate than normal, shooting 5-for-7 in the first half. While the Sparks are scoring in the paint by working more standard post-ups, the Storm have worked the pick-and-roll well, forcing the Sparks bigs to keep up with Camille Little and Le'coe Willingham (five and seven points, respectively).
The key to the second half might continue to be the post, but more rebounding than scoring - the Sparks are not a particularly strong rebounding team with or without Candace Parker and although neither team has gotten a lot of offensive rebounds in the first half, rebounding and second chance points could be a difference-maker in the second half.