SEATTLE – With Storm point guard Sue Bird at home recovering from stomach flu, her teammates put on a show at KeyArena.
But grinding defense and near perfect offense in the opening half against visiting Los Angeles couldn’t counter Sparks guard Kristi Toliver. Her growing consistency this season led her to score 22 points to help L.A. run away with an 82-71 win.
The Sparks (16-6) swept the five-game regular-season series with the Storm (10-11). All were without three-time MVP Lauren Jackson because of her Australian Olympic commitments.
It was L.A.’s first game after the WNBA’s hiatus for the London Olympic Games. It gave them a week to prepare, while the Storm had a day. Still, without Bird and Jackson in the rotation, it’s the same lineup that has been practicing the entire break together.
You could tell the improved chemistry in the first half, particularly with Seattle’s defense against Olympian Candace Parker (eight points). Only Toliver seemed to always have an answer despite dueling with Tanisha Wright throughout the game.
The Sparks opened the third quarter on a 13-2 run. It helped increase their lead to 16 points. But Wright had more to give to Toliver and L.A.
Wright roared to the courtside seats holding the Storm ownership after a 19-footer over Toliver with two seconds left in the quarter. It ignited a 6-2 run after a three-pointer by rookie Shekinna Stricklen to cut Seattle’s deficit to 69-61 in the fourth.