SEATTLE — The Seattle Storm held the lead for most of Saturday’s night’s game against the Los Angeles Sparks, but when the final buzzer sounded, it was the Sparks who escaped KeyArena with a 65-64 victory.
The Storm have now lost seven of their last nine games.
Seattle (6-10) managed just 25 points in the second half as the Sparks methodically chipped their way back into a game they trailed by as many as 12. Los Angeles briefly held a lead after a 10-0 run late in the third quarter, but didn’t hold it again until an Alana Beard’s 15-footer gave the Sparks a one-point lead with 10.2 seconds remaining.
After Beard’s shot, the Storm called timeout to set up a play for Camille Little with Tanisha Wright inbounding. Little had the hot hand for Seattle throughout the game, scoring 22 points while shooting 6-for-8 from the field and making 10 of 11 free throws.
“We tried to get Camille on a slip play,” Storm head coach Brian Agler said. “I could tell that she was open, but I couldn’t tell how Tanisha was guarded out of bounds. They might have jumped up and took that pass away.”
The play broke down and Storm point guard Temeka Johnson attacked the basket, but her shot was blocked as time ticked down. The clock expired, but the referees determined that the ball had gone out of bounds off Los Angeles with some time remaining. After reviewing the play they put 0.6 seconds back on the clock.
Wright entered the ball inbounds from the baseline with a soft lob to Tina Thompson, who caught the ball with one hand and attempted a shot, which appeared to be partially blocked as time expired.
“With 0.6 seconds, we got exactly what we did want,” Agler said. “It just didn’t go down.”
Thompson said not being able to get a handle on the ball impacted the shot.
“I think if I would have had both hands (on the ball) than it would have been a great look,” she said. “I was open.”
The Storm have lost both meetings with the Sparks this season, but Saturday’s showing was much better than their 102-69 road loss the season opener.
“For us, nobody knows how good we are except us,” Little said. “We know every day when we go out and practice how good this team is. Sometimes we don’t show it, but we know we have great players in here and we have a great team. Tonight was just a glimpse of it.”
Second-year Storm forward Shekinna Stricklen scored 13 points, eight of which came in the game’s opening minutes as she attacked the rim relentlessly. Stricklen struggled with her jump shot throughout the game, but was still an effective offensive weapon for the Storm, something Agler had hoped for when he replaced Noelle Quinn with Stricklen in the starting lineup earlier this month.
“She doesn’t surprise me,” Little said. “I expect those kind of things out of her. When she doesn’t do that then I am disappointed or upset with her. That’s the kind of player she can be every night. From here on out, that’s what I expect.”
The Storm were able to hold Candace Parker to just seven points and limit her to 3-for-11 shooting. But the 2012 No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft, Nneka Ogwumike did enough damage for the both of them. The second-year star tied a season-high with 24 points, shot 10-for-14 from the field and grabbed nine rebounds.
“It’s kind of like pick your poison,” Thompson said. “They are both really good players, so you are not going to contain them individually. But when we are kind of locking or shading towards Candace then it gives Nneka an opportunity to kind of play in space.”
The Storm have four days off before facing the Sparks again on Thursday in Los Angeles.
Aaron Lommers covers the Seattle Storm for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.