LOS ANGELES – Chelsea Gray had 21 points and eight assists, Candace Parker added 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, and the Los Angeles Sparks beat Seattle 92-69 on Sunday to eliminate the defending-champion Storm from the WNBA playoffs.
No. 3 seed Los Angeles advance to play second-seeded Connecticut Sun, which earned a double-bye to the semifinals. The best-of-five series begins Tuesday in Connecticut. The WNBA said that they will pay for charter flights for the winners of the second round games to fly east so that the teams can have a full day to prepare for the first game of the semifinals.
Natasha Howard gave the Storm their first lead since early in the second quarter with a 3-pointer that made it 56-55 with 3:11 left in the third but Parker answered with a layup, Gray hit a pull-up jumper and, after a short basket by Seattle’s Jewell Loyd, the Sparks (scored 21 of the next 24 points to pull away for good.
Nneka Ogwumike scored 17 points and Riquna Williams added 11 for the Sparks (22-12).
Howard led the Storm (18-16) with 20 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. Loyd had 11 points and Mercedes Russell and Jordin Canada each scored 10.
The Sparks won two of their three meetings with the Sun (23-11) in the regular season. The last came in Los Angeles on Aug. 25 and snapped Connecticut’s four-game win streak, knocking the Sun from the top of the WNBA standings, one game behind the Washington Mystics.
After Canada hit a short floater, Howard scored eight straight points to cap a 10-0 run that made it 18-11 but the Sparks scored 11 of the next 13 points before Crystal Langhorne’s 3-pointer gave Seattle a 23-22 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Gray scored eight points, including two of her four 3-pointers, in a 13-4 spurt to open the second that gave Los Angeles a nine-point lead midway through the period and the Sparks led for all but 40 seconds the rest of the way.
After Howard’s 3 that gave the Storm their final lead late in the third, Seattle made just one of its next 12 field-goal attempts and committed six turnovers over the next nearly-eight minutes as the Sparks built a 21-point lead.
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