Few teams in the WNBA understood the Seattle Storm's dominance in 2010 quite like the Los Angeles Sparks.
They opened and closed their regular season with competitive, yet unsuccessful, attempts at beating the Storm at KeyArena and then found themselves at the wrong end of a first round sweep in the 2010 WNBA Playoffs at the hands of the same juggernaut that swept through the post-season unscathed.
Seven tries, seven losses for the Sparks.
Yet in addition to this being a new year, this is also a different Sparks team than the one Storm fans grew familiar with last season - in addition to having star forward Candace Parker back from injury, the Sparks have improved their 3-point shooting nearly 10 percent to complement the ball movement that led to late-season improvement in 2010.
"Our chemistry is really coming along," said Sparks guard Kristi Toliver, who is leading the 3-point improvement with a 52.6 percent shooting percentage from deep. "Right now we're healthy, we have everybody - unlike last season - and we have another year of experience. So with all those things together, we're putting together a pretty good season so far. It can make the difference playing against Seattle."
However, one thing that has remained the same is the Sparks rebounding struggles - having Parker and her team-high 8.3 rebounds per game back is certainly good, but the team as a whole has still struggled a bit on the glass early in the season.
Los Angeles Sparks Versatility Overcomes Rebounding Struggles - Swish Appeal
Rebounding was a problem for the Sparks last season and since outrebounding the Lynx on opening night, the Sparks have had 12 offensive rebounds over the last two games, including three quarters without an offensive rebound (the first half against the Lynx and the first quarter against the Mercury) and one additional quarter (third quarter against the Lynx) with only one offensive rebound. To put that in perspective, the Sparks averaged a league-low 7.64 offensive rebounds last season - they've averaged six over their last two games.
A lack of offensive rebounding wouldn't be a huge problem if they were keeping opponents off the offensive glass, which has been a struggle as well - they are allowing the second most total rebounds per game in the league (37.67)...
In addition to being a focal area for the Storm as they try to get their first road win of the season, the game might also provide some second chance opportunities around the basket for Storm forward Lauren Jackson to find her rhythm this season.
Through three games, Jackson is averaging a career-low 11 points per game as well as matching her career-low with 6.7 rebounds per game. That the Storm have won without the type of production they've come to expect from a player like Jackson is impressive, but her performance today against a solid Sparks team will be something else to watch.