Candace Parker fell to her back as she watched Seattle Storm guard Jordin Canada run down the court. With her team down four points with 30 seconds remaining, Parker threw her hands over her head as she lay flat on her back in frustration.
The Sparks, after getting off to another slow start Saturday, rallied in the fourth quarter but lost 81-75 in an early-season matchup between two WNBA title favorites in Bradenton, Fla. Parker had 19 points and 12 rebounds, her second consecutive double-double.
The Storm, coming off an 89-71 loss to the Washington Mystics during which Seattle fell behind 15-4 to start the game, retaliated by burying the Sparks in a 14-1 deficit early. Seattle (3-1) didn’t have star point guard Sue Bird, who was resting, but didn’t need her. Breanna Stewart, the league’s 2018 MVP, had 15 points at the half with Jewell Loyd adding 11. The Sparks (2-2) limped to 29 points as a team, trailing by 16 points at halftime.
It was the third consecutive slow start for the Sparks, despite the veteran team returning its entire starting lineup from the end of last year. The veteran group has looked disjointed and slow early in games. But with such an abbreviated preseason that didn’t include in-person practices until teams arrived in Florida in early July, the familiar lineup appeared to be the safer option for the team.
Now with one week of the season over, the rotation could change. Sparks coach Derek Fisher said before the game that the coaching staff will reevaluate the lineups, because with information from four games, they are able to better analyze the full roster after the team made several offseason additions.
Seimone Augustus’ contribution, however, shouldn’t be a surprise. She is a four-time WNBA champion.
Augustus opened the fourth quarter with six straight points, part of a 16-2 run that cut a 17-point Storm lead to three. During the first half, TV cameras showed the former Minnesota Lynx star shouting at her lethargic teammates, who say they value Augustus for her honest leadership style.
Augustus finished with 12 points off the bench, her second consecutive game in which she led a second-half comeback. Her nine points in the third quarter against Connecticut helped propel the Sparks to the win.
On Saturday, Augustus’ heroics weren’t enough as the Storm had 21 points from Stewart and 17 from Loyd. Canada, the former UCLA star point guard, had 16 points.