Sparks fade late in loss to Storm, tied for playoff spot

Despite a Sparks fourth-quarter rally with three-pointers from Nneka Ogwumike and Rae Burrell, they lost 72-61 to the Seattle Storm at Arena on Thursday and fell into a tie with the Chicago Sky for the last playoff spot.

It was about a 10-point game until a Sparks rally with less than six minutes left shrunk the Storm’s lead to 62-59. But a three-pointer from Kia Nurse with one minute left made it a 10-point game again and sealed the Storm’s win.

Ogwumike led the Sparks (15-21) with 11 points and seven rebounds and Karlie Samuelson reached double-digit scoring for the second consecutive game with 10, sinking two three-pointers to help outscore the Storm (11-25) in the third quarter. After falling hard on her left leg in the fourth and limping off the court, she returned with two minutes left.

Burrell stepped up for the Sparks guards, who were missing Layshia Clarendon again because of health and safety protcols, by scoring a season-high 10 points. She sunk her second three-pointer with five minutes left to shrink the lead to one point.

Coach Curt Miller emphasized the importance of younger players in Clarendon’s absence before the game.

“Can Zia [Cooke] bring us some energy when Evina [Westbrook], Rae come in off the bench? Their energy, their intensity, their toughness is going to be a big factor tonight,” he said.

Cooke logged eight points with one steal.

All-Star game most valuable player Jewell Loyd led the Storm with 25 points.

After following a six-game winning streak with a three-game skid, the Sparks have four games left to break their tie with the Sky. The Sparks host Washington (17-19) on Sunday.