Sparks Top Storm, Advance to Semifinals

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Sparks rode their sharpshooting to a 92-69 victory in the second round of the 2019 WNBA playoffs, eliminating the defending champions Seattle Storm. Three Sparks players sank at least three 3-pointers in the victory, tied for second-most in a postseason game in WNBA history. Chelsea Gray led Los Angeles with 21 points and eight assists, while Natasha Howard posted a team-high 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Storm. 

Candace Parker had a hand in nearly every Sparks basket while on the court in the first quarter, assisting on two 3-pointers and adding her own putback and coast-to-coast layup. Seattle took an 18-11 lead on a Howard 3-pointer after Parker checked out with just over three minutes remaining. The lead would not last long, however, as the Sparks went on a quick 9-0 run, highlighted by two steals and transition baskets on consecutive Seattle possessions. 

Maria Vadeeva emphatically set the tone for the second quarter with a block on Crystal Langhorne during the first possession of play. The Sparks’ defensive pressure, spearheaded by Alana Beard, held Seattle scoreless for the first three and a half minutes of the quarter as Los Angeles reeled off another 9-0 run. The Storm cut the deficit to four with just under a minute left in the quarter, but Gray responded with an electric 3-pointer to give the Sparks a 43-36 lead at halftime. 

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt locked down Jordin Canada with full-court pressure to start the second half, including a block at the basket that ignited the STAPLES Center crowd. Howard, Jewell Loyd and Mercedes Russell picked up the offensive load for Canada, and the Storm cut the deficit to one on a Howard 3-pointer at the 3:11 mark of the third quarter. Seattle would get no closer, however, as the Sparks closed the quarter on a 10-2 run, capped by a Riquna Williams buzzer-beating 3-pointer. 

Sydney Wiese and Nneka Ogwumike combined for a quick 10 points to extend the Sparks’ offensive explosion into the fourth quarter. Wiese drained back-to-back 3-pointers, followed by two consecutive jumpers from Ogwumike, to build a commanding 21-point lead that Los Angeles would not relinquish.