Sparks-Storm Preview


While the Los Angeles Sparks are clicking on all cylinders, Kristi Toliver believes they still have room to improve. That doesn't bode well for the Seattle Storm, who have had enough trouble in the series as is. Seeking a season-high seventh consecutive victory, the visiting Sparks try to continue their recent dominance of the Storm on Tuesday night. The Sparks (18-7) have outscored opponents by an average of 12.3 points during their winning streak to climb within one-half game of WNBA-leading Minnesota. "We kind of understand the pace that we want to play offensively, and defensively we've just gotten tougher and have been taking things personally," Toliver said after Friday's 94-72 win over Chicago. "We're not where we need to be, but we're on the right track." Toliver led the way with 28 points, one shy of her career high, as Los Angeles shot 63.2 percent. "I don't think there's any question that L.A. is the team to beat right now at this particular time in the season," Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. "Can they maintain that through the playoffs? We'll wait and see." Candace Parker scored 18 points and Nneka Ogwumike added 16 for Los Angeles, which also won six in a row July 2-17. "It's easy when you're opening things up and you're getting those easy back doors," Toliver said. "I think we're just all feeling more comfortable offensively together, reading one another. Everybody's really doing their job. When we do that, we're successful." The Sparks have to like their chances of keeping things going against the Storm (11-13), losers in eight of nine in the series. Seattle's only win over that stretch came in the most recent meeting, 73-66 on July 25 in Los Angeles. Former Spark Tina Thompson led the Storm with 23 points. Thompson came up big again Saturday in a 77-70 win over Indiana. The 38-year-old veteran scored 14 of her 23 points in the second half and became the third player in WNBA history to reach 3,000 rebounds, pulling down seven. "Her play tonight is just inspiring," coach Brian Agler said of Thompson, the league's career leading scorer with 7,324 points. "If you can't sit there and think about what she's getting done at her age - the minutes she's playing, hitting big shots, making big plays and guarding one of the better players in the league in (Tamika) Catchings, it's hard not to really compete when you're on the floor with her." Thompson, averaging team highs of 13.1 points and 5.5 boards, is set to retire at the end of this season. "She's been amazing all year, I'm going to be sad to see her leave," said Tanisha Wright, who scored 16. "At this point of her career and this stage to be able to perform at this type of level in the best women's league in the world is absolutely amazing."