The Seattle Storm managed to keep pace with the Los Angeles Sparks on the scoreboard during a sluggish second half, but playing even simply wasn't enough to overcome a poor first half effort in a 68-62 loss at Staples Center tonight.
Despite the sub-par performance, the Storm actually within five points with a minute left but couldn't get their shots to fall against an aggressive Sparks defense that was focused and did an excellent job of rotating as the Storm tried to execute their offense.
The final minute of denying the Storm the scoring opportunities they wanted was a fitting end to the loss that ends the Storm's season-high winning streak at four games. The Sparks hardly played an outstanding game, but their defense was better - and more consistent - than usual as they held the Storm to 37.9 percent shooting for the game.
But on the other end, the Storm had no answer for Sparks star Candace Parker who had a game-high 27 points on 8-for-16 shooting and tied for a team-high seven rebounds. It was pretty much the same type of performance that Parker put on in the fourth quarter at KeyArena on Sunday but just spread out over the course of an entire game instead of just half a quarter. After beating the Storm with depth in their first meeting at Staples Center, the Sparks are apparently tightening their rotation and only used seven players tonight with Ebony Hoffman coming off the bench to score 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
For the Storm, the game was reminiscent of the way they played in the first half of the season with Sue Bird carrying the majority of the load with a team-high 15 points, including 4-for-5 3-point shooting, as well as four rebounds and four assists. Lauren Jackson complemented Bird with 14 points, but shot 3-for-13.
While the loss prevented the Storm from clinching a playoff spot, it also reflects the difference in urgency between the two teams - while the Storm are still comfortably within playoff range, the Sparks needed this win just to stay within striking distance of the fourth place San Antonio Silver Stars, who beat the Connecticut Sun at home tonight.