The look was there.
“But I was forced to catch it (the ball) with one because Candace (Parker) was holding my other one,” said Storm forward Tina Thompson of the final shot in a 65-64 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday.
“If I would have had both hands, then it would have been a great look,” Thompson continued. “I was open. It sucks … but we’re moving in the right direction. We’ve mentally figured out what we need to do and we executed.”
After a stretch of six games where the Storm was outscored in the opening quarter by its opponent, it reversed the situation and the game only saw four lead changes. But a once 12-point lead melted into a desperation shot with two-tenths of a second on the clock.
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Parker missed the second of a one-and-one to leave Los Angeles down 62-61 with a minute remaining in the game. She missed a block against a speedy Temeka Johnson for a layin that appeared to be enough to keep Seattle ahead.
Instead, Storm forward Shekinna Stricklen missed an open three-pointer with 22.9 seconds left in the game. Second-year Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike grabbed the rebound and teammate Alana Beard made a pullup jumper out of a timeout with 10.2 on the clock that sealed the win.
The Sparks’ shot was on a broken play where the Storm couldn’t recover defensively. In Seattle’s final attempts, Ogwumike was there to deny Johnson and Thompson.
“I’m OK with the game plan we had,” said Thompson of the Storm’s focus on Parker to limit her to seven points, but leaving Ogwumike open for a game-high 24 points and nine rebounds. “If we could have executed certain plays offensively and defensively toward the end of the game then the outcome would probably be different. But I’ve let it go.”
The Storm (6-10) hasn’t defeated the Sparks (12-5) since 2011. But the differential was better than Seattle’s 102-69 loss to Los Angeles in the season opener.
Seattle travels to Los Angeles for a rematch on Thursday. It’s the final game before a leaguewide All-Star break.
“I was very proud of our second-half effort because it was a grind, and we hadn’t shown a whole lot of resiliency in the past in fighting our way out of tough situations,” Sparks coach Carol Ross said. “I was really pleased with our fight, though it didn’t ensure that we were going to win the game.”
Stricklen used her acrobatic style to get Seattle going offensively early. A 6-foot-2 forward, Stricklen was 4 of 5 from the field for 10 points in the opening half. Seattle built an 11-point lead in the opening half and took a 39-31 advantage into the break.
Los Angeles used forced turnovers to take a brief lead in the third quarter. But Seattle forward Camille Little made two free throws to regain it. She was 10 of 11 from the line in the game.
Stricklen punctuated the turnaround with a three-pointer with 6:53 remaining in the game to give the Storm a 58-52 lead. But the Sparks scored 12 points off 10 Storm turnovers in the second half to remain in the game.
Little led the Storm with 22 points. Stricklen finished with 13 points in her best game since moving into the starting lineup last Sunday.
“From here on out, that’s what I expect (from Shekinna),” Little said.
• Former Storm center Nakia Sanford was among the 6,357 in attendance on Saturday. She was cut by the Storm on Thursday before WNBA contracts became guaranteed.
Coach and general manager Brian Agler intimated he’d re-sign Sanford to a seven-day contract on Sunday to allow for more roster flexibility.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.