Sparks look to rebound from rare loss, visit Storm (Jul 7, 2017)

BY AP • July 7, 2017

It will be a while before the defending champion Los Angeles Sparks can avenge Thursday's 88-77 loss to arch-rival Minnesota.

After all, the next time the two teams meet will be when the Lynx host the Sparks on Aug. 11.

Until then, the Sparks (12-4) have some work to do and it all starts Saturday on the road against the Seattle Storm.

The Storm (7-9) have won just three of 11 games after dropping a 79-70 decision on Thursday to New York at Key Arena. Seattle led throughout most of the first half, but poor shooting and fouls doomed the Storm.

There were two bright spots in the loss for the Storm in guard Sami Whitcomb and center Breanna Stewart, the top pick in the 2016 draft.

"I thought we were definitely going to break through," Whitcomb told the Seattle Times, after scoring eight third-quarter points to get the Storm within two. "I felt like defensively we were getting stops. We were rebounding, and we were flowing again."

Stewart recorded a double-double, leading the Storm with 20 points and 14 points. This after scoring a season-high 30 points in her previous game.

"You're starting to see Stewie's versatility really come out," guard Sue Bird told the Times. "More than anything, you're starting to see her be a little more aggressive."

Stewart will have her hands full against the Sparks.

With the marquee matchup of the year in their rearview mirror, the Sparks have about 48 hours to move on from the loss that snapped their eight-game win streak.

The Lynx led by 19 points in the first half, but the Sparks made a second-half run behind Nneka Ogwumike, who led all scorers with 27 points. She also grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.

Candace Parker, who on Wednesday was named Western Conference Player of the Week, was held to two points. Last season's WNBA Finals MVP went 1-for-6 from the field.

Chelsea Gray, whose minutes have doubled since last season, was the only other Sparks player to score in double figures as she recorded 16 points.

Gray's play this year earned the second-year guard plenty of kudos.

"I think that Chelsea is a really, really good player," coach Brian Agler told earlier this season. "I think she can be a great player."

Gray credit her teammates for her success. She is averaging 16.2 points, 4.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game.

"I think it comes from within the team, from attention on Nneka and Candace," Gray told "A lot of teams congest in the lane, and rightfully so, they're great scorers. So sometimes I'm open on the wing, and they're able to execute the pass."