The penultimate game of the regular season served as a chance for the Sparks to prove they’re ready for the postseason. Facing off against a fellow playoff team in the Seattle Storm, the Sparks passed the test with flying colors.
With a start-to-finish dominance, the Sparks clinched the third seed in the playoffs, beating the Storm 102-68. The point total was a season-high for the Sparks, despite facing the third-ranked defense in the league. Propelled by 26 assists to just eight turnovers, and 54.7% shooting from the field, the offense came together in a way it hadn’t all year.
“We’re still trying to get better, and go into the playoffs with a winning mentality and momentum,” said point guard Chelsea Gray, who had 12 points, nine assists and a buzzer-beating jumper to end the first half. “We see what we’re like when we have spacing, and we’re able to get stops.”
It was a balanced attack for the Sparks, whose frontcourt made quick work of Seattle. Center Candace Parker led all scorers with 20 points and nine rebounds, while power forward Nneka Ogwumike had her 13th double-double of the year with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Second-year center Maria Vadeeva added 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench, as the Sparks pounded the glass for a 43-27 rebounding edge.
“When we came together in training camp, we looked up and down at our post group and were like, ‘We are the most talented post group in the WNBA,’” said center Chiney Ogwumike, who added 12 points on five-for-six shooting. “You’re pretty much witnessing us building chemistry on the fly, and finally things are making sense, largely because we’re healthy.”
The win gave the Sparks (21-12) their 13th consecutive win at home, where they’ll finish the regular season on Sunday against the Minnesota Lynx. But with their playoff standing already set, Los Angeles has nothing to play for but momentum and fine tuning. Well, that and a little bit of pride.
“We want to win that game,” said Nneka Ogwumike. “It will allow us to work on some things, and work on that playoff preparation. Finishing the season with a win, that feels good going into the playoffs.”
Though the Sparks will play it smart over the weekend, they don’t intend to rest their stars.
“We’re gonna prepare for it like it’s a meaningful game,” coach Derek Fisher said. “I think every chance you get to build habits you have to take, because we haven’t had as many games with our fullroster.”