LOS ANGELES – Not so long ago, the Storm and the Los Angeles Sparks regularly vied for supremacy in the WNBA’s Western Conference. Now, both teams are struggling to avoid last place.
In the teams’ most recent encounter, a fourth-quarter collapse dumped the Storm into the bottom of the conference standings.
The Sparks used a 65-57 victory Tuesday in front of 8,593 at Staples Center to exchange places with the Storm (6-10), which trails fifth-place Los Angeles (5-8).
Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike scored 20 points and secured 11 rebounds apiece for the Sparks, with Parker adding seven assists and four blocks.
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“We’re capable of playing better,” said Storm coach Brian Agler, whose team has lost four of its past six. “For the most part, they played with a lot more urgency, toughness, and focus than we did.”
The Storm trailed Los Angeles 40-30 with 5:51 left in the third quarter. But the visitors made six of their final eight field-goal attempts in the period — including all four from three-point range — to draw to 48-47 as the fourth period began.
“It was a low-scoring game, which is how we like it,” Storm guard Sue Bird said. “Until the last five minutes or so, we were in this game.”
In the final quarter, the Storm scored only three points in the first four minutes. Shekinna Stricklen made a free throw with 6:38 to play, then Camille Little followed 37 seconds later with a driving finger roll.
But the Storm did not score another basket until Noelle Quinn made a layin with 43.8 seconds remaining. By that time, the Sparks had built a 65-52 advantage, their biggest of the game.
Before Quinn’s layin, the Storm missed eight of nine shots from the floor and scored only five points.
“They have a pretty big lineup and are able to switch off every screen,” said Bird, who had seven after scoring 44 her past two games.
Los Angeles also stifled Camille Little, who scored 42 in her two previous games but had just eight Tuesday.
“L.A. did a good job of denying Sue the ball on the pick and roll,” Agler said. “With Camille, her game is attacking the rim and going to the free-throw line, and they limited those opportunities.”
Temeka Johnson led the Storm with 11 points and five assists and Crystal Langhorne grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. Johnson started for Tanisha Wright, who missed her third consecutive game because of a bone bruise in her right knee.