The 2018 champions still have a shot at defending their title. After an 84-74 win over the Minnesota Lynx, the Seattle Storm now have a date with the Los Angeles Sparks. The second round contest will be played at LA, tip-off at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN 2.
Seattle was aided by a career-high 26 points from Jordin Canada and 22 points from Jewell Loyd. But Natasha Howard scored a mere 2 points.
LA won the season series between the teams 2-1, winning both games at home. Seattle won game one 84-62 behind 20-point performances from Howard and Loyd. Nneka Ogwumike was the only player in double figures for the Sparks.
Games two and three proved to be different stories for the Storm. Game two was an 83-75 Sparks win, while game three saw a 102-68 obliteration by the Sparks.
Containing Parker… and everyone else
Candace Parker had 20-plus points in the two LA wins, while she only had 2 in the loss. Parker will clearly be the toughest assignment for Seattle in this game. The Storm simply just don’t have the size to feel comfortable in guarding her.
LA will have all 12 players healthy for this game, just as they did in the final game against Seattle. In that game, the Sparks looked like they were in different league than the Storm.
LA has four players averaging 11 points or better. Candace Parker doesn’t even lead the team in that category, yet she’ll provide the most problems for Seattle. Beyond her, Seattle has to put its focus on Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray.
Role players need to step defensively
For the second playoff game in a row, lack of depth will be Seattle’s main weakness.
That being said, it was nice to see players not named Howard lead the team in round one. The aforementioned Loyd and Canada stepped up huge when Howard could only muster 2 points on 1-4 shooting. If Seattle wants to move out of the single-elimination rounds, the role players and Howard need to have big games.
They also need to step up on the defensive side of the ball as well. They can’t allow all but one player for the Sparks to score like they did in the series finale. Seattle needs to focus on limiting the Sparks offense. That’s a tall task, as the Sparks averaged 80.1 points during the regular season.
Magic Number and Prediction
The magic number for Seattle in round 1 was 75 point scored. For round 2, I’m changing that number to 80 points allowed. If Seattle can hold LA to less than its season average of 80 points, then Seattle will move out of the elimination rounds with a shot at another title.
However, that’s a very large “if.” Seattle has had a nice season and has shown flashes of excellence. It’s motto this postseason is “don’t doubt us,” alluding to Howard’s quote earlier this season. I’m not doubting the Storm. But I’m also not picking them to beat the Sparks. Expect a good round 2 game and for Seattle to put up a major fight. You can also expect the defending champs to be going home after the final buzzer sounds.