LOS ANGELES — Less than 30 minutes before taking the court at Staples Center on Friday night, the Storm knew its playoff fate.
The Storm will miss the WNBA playoffs for the first time since 2003 because of the San Antonio Stars’ 92-76 victory over the Minnesota Lynx, enabling San Antonio to secure the final playoff berth in the Western Conference.
“That was hard,” guard Jenna O’Hea said. “We had it on TV in the locker room. We had a lot of momentum going into this game so we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. When Minnesota went down by 10, we knew it wasn’t going to be.”
The Storm began playing for next season with a 77-65 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks in front of 9,647.
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“Before the game, we knew we were eliminated,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “So we took a different approach. Everybody was going to play a lot of minutes. Once we knew we were eliminated, we’re getting ready for next year. You start your evaluation of people you have on your roster right now.”
The three veterans who energized the Storm’s three-game winning streak became irrelevant. Crystal Langhorne finished with 10 points but Sue Bird had just one rebound and one assist in five minutes, and Camille Little merely recorded a personal foul in four minutes.
The reserves played the starring roles for the Storm (12-21). O’Hea scored a career-high 16 points. Rookie Waltiea Rolle added 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Noelle Quinn finished with a season-best nine assists.
O’Hea and Rolle “did a ton,” Agler said, to enhance their chances of playing for next year’s team.
Los Angeles (16-17) began the game by making seven of its first nine shots to build an 18-4 lead with 5:19 remaining in the first quarter. Nneka Ogwumike led the surge with six points, while the Storm missed seven of its first nine shots. Eventually, the Sparks built a 56-36 advantage with 2:50 gone in the third quarter.
Candace Parker finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists and Kristi Toliver added 20 points, as Los Angeles shot 60.8 percent.