Seattle 61 at Los Angeles 74

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Sparks topple Storm 74-61
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Los Angeles Sparks didn’t need to rally this time.

Candace Parker scored 21 points and 10 rebounds and Kristi Toliver added 18 to help the Sparks beat the Seattle Storm 74-61 on Tuesday night.

Alana Beard scored 13 points as the Sparks led from the first quarter after their big comeback victory against the Storm last Friday in which the Sparks erased a 21-point second half deficit.

Los Angeles led by double digits throughout the fourth quarter. Toliver made two 3-pointers in the final five minutes, the last to effectively seal it at 69-56.

“We didn’t dig ourselves a hole today,” Toliver said. “I felt like we controlled the game the entire way. We’re making progress. We’re making steps. We’re building forward. We’re getting wins and still making mistakes and learning. We feel pretty good that we’re able to learn and win at the same time.”

Los Angeles held Seattle to 38.6 percent shooting from the field and forced 19 turnovers. After a hot start the Sparks’ offense cooled a bit but its defense held the Storm to 28 second-half points.

“Defensively, we were stingy, greedy and all the things you should be on the defensive end,” first-year Sparks coach Carol Ross said. “That’s a good day’s work from the defensive end. Offensively, we’re just running a little behind there. But our defense is keeping us in it.”

Parker and Toliver stretched the lead to 60-45 in the final minute of the third. Parker brought the ball up court after Shekinna Stricklen’s miss inside and fed Toliver for a 3-pointer. The Sparks got another stop and Parker came down and sank a 3-pointer.

“That was huge,” Toliver said. “You could definitely see Seattle feeling very defeated at that moment.”

Ann Wauters led Seattle with 15 points. Tina Thompson added 13. Seattle never got closer than five points behind from 8:21 of the third quarter.

More disconcerting is that the Storm has committed 41 turnovers in its first two games.

“I think it’s maybe us continuing to try to get more familiar with each other,” Sue Bird said. “There’s a little uncertainty at times. You have to give credit to L.A. They, once again, pressured us, and probably caused some of those turnovers. But you have to play through it.”

Bird and coach Brian Agler attributed the turnovers to that unfamiliarity. Seattle is 0-2.

“Of course it’s not a nice pleasant feeling, how we feel right now,” Bird said. “But it is the only the second game of the season, and we know that even though it’s a short season, you can’t let two games dictate who we’re going to be.”

The Sparks came out energized in the home opener, which was originally scheduled for Sunday but was moved because Staples Center hosted NBA and NHL playoff games over the weekend.

Parker scored nine of her team’s first 13 points as the Sparks led from 11-9 to halftime. Seattle fell behind by 11 points but climbed back on a pair of Thompson 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the first half and trailed, 37-33.

“We’re still trying to find our identity as a team,” Agler said. “I’m hoping it happens sooner than later. It’s not panic mode.”

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