Perhaps the biggest story of this WNBA weekend will be the Tulsa Shock ending their WNBA record 20-game losing streak with consecutive wins, beginning with a 77-75 win over the Los Angeles Sparks at the Staples Center on Friday.
One of the most significant factors for the Sparks' loss on Friday was that they allowed the Shock to get offensive rebounds at a much better rate than their average, not to mention putting up little defensive resistance to the Sparks. Their defensive struggles combined with forward Candace Parker being held to well beneath her average scoring production.
However, it's also worth noting that those are two of the things that stood out about the Sparks first meeting against the Storm in Los Angeles with both Storm center Lauren Jackson and Sparks forward Candace Parker healthy - the Storm limited the Sparks' rebounding and Parker only had 10 points and seven rebounds.
In other words, the Sparks are more than capable of winning games without rebounding, even if late-game lapses killed them against the Shock. So if that's the case, how can the Storm beat the Sparks today?
Three keys for the Storm against the Sparks:
Win the turnover battle: The Storm have been noticeably better on the turnover front since Jackson's return to action three games ago, but the Shock and Sparks were the only two teams with a worse disparity in their rate of turnovers compared to opponents. The Sparks commit a number of turnovers by trying to squeeze passes into tight spots. They weren't at all excessively sloppy in their loss to the Shock on Friday, but for a strong defensive team like the Storm simply identifying assignments, pressuring their primary ball handlers to give up the ball, and rotating well, they can generate offense in transition off their defense.
Close out on 3-point shooters: The Sparks are not a team that's going to run a lot and score in transition, but one thing that makes them tough to defend in the halfcourt - particularly with Parker in the game lineup - is that they are the best 3-point shooting team in the league at 41.2 percent and they're not shy about taking them. When they're at their best, they're spreading the floor and moving the ball quickly forcing the defense to shift and just taking advantage of open shots. With six players shooting over 40 percent from the 3-point line, they are more than capable of stretching the defense and making them pay for poor rotations.
- Crash the offensive boards hard: Although the Sparks are clearly capable of winning games without rebounding well as the Storm are well aware, their struggle to keep opponents off the boards creates major problems for them - they are last in the league in second chance points allowed. It's very important to note that Jackson was not playing well prior to her injury and has played much better since. But one thing that's interesting is that in her three games back from injury, she has zero offensive rebounds. Storm coach Brian Agler noted that she is still comfortable away from the basket since her return and that might explain the lack of offensive rebounding. But the Sparks will offer up plenty of opportunities to get offensive rebounds and if Jackson can get inside, she could play a major role in a victory by beating the Sparks on second chance points.