Storm-Sparks Preview


The playoff-bound Los Angeles Sparks have had their way with Seattle this season, but none of the previous matchups have been potentially this important for the Storm.

Seattle still hopes to have a shot at reaching the postseason when it takes the court Friday night in Los Angeles.

The Storm (12-20) have won a season-high three straight following a seven-game losing streak that nearly put them out of the playoff race. Still, Seattle needs to win its final two games and have San Antonio lose its two contests to secure the Western Conference's fourth and final postseason spot.

San Antonio faces Minnesota earlier Friday, and a Stars win would eliminate the Storm before they even take the floor in Los Angeles. San Antonio closes the regular season Sunday against Chicago while Seattle plays its finale that same day against West-leading Phoenix.

The Storm stayed alive with Sunday's 74-68 win over Tulsa, rallying from a 13-point halftime deficit. Sue Bird scored 22 points and Camille Little added 16.

"We didn't really make many adjustments per se, we just had a little more pep in our step," Bird said. "The stops we did get we turned into points, and when we play like that we can play with anybody in this league."

Seattle hasn't had much success against Los Angeles, though, dropping all four meetings by an average of 10.3 points. Sparks coach Penny Toler earned her first career victory with a 77-69 win over the Storm on July 26.

Los Angeles (15-17) clinched a playoff spot with Tuesday's 71-63 win over Minnesota, which owns the league's second-best record. Kristi Toliver tied her career high with 29 points, while Candace Parker added 16.

"It goes to show that you can play with the big dogs," Toler said. "I told them I need them to play to their potential because right now, nothing else matters. When you get in the playoffs, you're back at 0-0."

Despite an overall inconsistent campaign that included the midseason firing of former coach Carol Ross, Los Angeles has put itself in position to control its own postseason fate. A victory in this contest would lock up the No. 3 seed and a matchup with the Lynx in the first round of the playoffs.

"We're a playoff team and we wanted to do our own work," Toliver said. "We didn't want to have to rely on other teams losing and different circumstances. We wanted to take care of our own business, and that's why we came out the way we did (Tuesday). We wanted to close the door."

The Sparks' dominance of the Storm this season mainly has been the result of stellar defense. Los Angeles has forced an average of 16.5 turnovers while holding Seattle to 39.3 percent shooting, including 30.0 percent by Bird as she averaged 6.5 points.

Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike has averaged 21.0 points over the last three meetings with the Storm.