The Sparks Defense and the bench play big

WNBA 2017: Seattle Storm vs Los Angeles Sparks game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Ca on July 25, 2017. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Full Image 360)

Los Angeles, Ca – A bit of role reversal at STAPLES Center.

After the Los Angeles Sparks had a dominating second quarter at home on Tuesday night, the visiting Seattle Storm flipped the script in the third frame and put the Sparks on its heels.

But Candace Parker and the Sparks regrouped and fended off a hot Storm run to win 68-60 in the team’s return from the All-Star break.

“Seattle like to run their sets and my teammates were able to get our hands on the ball,” said Parker

Parker tallied a double-double with a team-high 17 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Jantel Lavender’s 14 points. Nneka Ogwumike also grabbed a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards.

The Storm’s Rookie of the Year forward Breanna Stewart led the game with 23 points.

Stewart started hot for the Storm, draining 10 of Seattle’s 19 points in the first quarter and hitting the 1000-point milestone.

But as Stewart was making her shots, so was Parker, who tallied six of the Sparks’ first points. The Sparks, though succeeding to not turn the ball over, only closed out the first quarter with a 21-19 lead.

Stewart sat out at the beginning of the second quarter, cooling off her shot and only mustering five points in the frame as the Storm struggled to establish a scoring run.

After Storm center Crystal Langhorne’s scored her first bucket, Seattle couldn’t find the basket to halt the Sparks’ run. Bird ended the Storm’s scoreless streak at the 3:55 mark, but Seattle only mustered a season-low 10 points in the second frame after closing on a 7-1 run.

“Most definitely our defense stepped up,” said Lavender “Didn’t let all their stars get off.”

In the meantime, the Sparks dominated the court going on a 16-2 run for 6:45. Parker and Lavender led Los Angeles in double-digit scoring in the first half, with 14 and 12 points respectively as the Sparks closed the half with a 40-29 lead.

Though the Sparks opened the second half with a layup from Ogwumike, the Storm ended up with the momentum and scored 11 unanswered points capped by Bird’s pull-up jumper to tie the game at 42 with 4:47 left in the quarter.

Stewart’s dry spell carried over to Parker, who’s 14 first-half points stood for the rest of the third quarter.

Noelle Quinn drove down the lane seconds later for an easy lay-up to give the Storm its first lead of the game since the first quarter. Bird’s mid-range jumper moments later catapulted her over Storm great Lauren Jackson for a franchise-record field-goals made.

The Sparks struggled in the third, but eventually regained its composure and the lead, and maintained its focus the rest of the half to fend off the Storm.