10:00 PM ET, July 9, 2011
Key Arena, Seattle, WA
The Seattle Storm and Los Angeles Sparks are struggling to adjust without their biggest respective stars, but the Storm at least have the luxury of heading home after a disappointing three-game road trip.The Sparks' sabbatical from Staples Center, meanwhile, isn't close to ending.Four straight losses -- the last two without Candace Parker -- have Los Angeles' eight-game road swing off to a sour start heading into Saturday night's visit with the Storm, who try to avenge a 24-point loss to the Sparks prior to Lauren Jackson's injury.Parker and Jackson have won three of the WNBA's past four MVP awards, so it's no surprise that Los Angeles (4-5) and Seattle (5-4) are having difficulties winning with their stars on the mend.While the Storm have split four games since Jackson suffered a hip injury, the Sparks were having issues even before Parker tore the lateral meniscus in her right knee. They lost the first two games of their trip by double digits with Parker and have fallen twice without her, the latest an ugly 101-82 defeat -- after leading by eight at halftime -- Tuesday at Phoenix."We weren't tough mentally today and that's sad to say with as many veterans as we have on this team," said Ebony Hoffman, who led the Sparks with 21 points and eight rebounds. "It's kind of inexcusable and I'm speechless at our effort today."A loss Saturday would be Los Angeles' fifth straight for the first time since Aug. 3-11, 2007, but their current 0-5 road record is nothing new. The Sparks dropped their first seven road games of 2010, including a pair of losses in Seattle by an average of 18.0 points.Los Angeles lost all seven meetings with the Storm last season -- including a two-game sweep in the Western Conference semifinals -- but earned a small bit of revenge June 19 at home. The Sparks held Seattle to 30.3 percent shooting and forced 23 turnovers in a 74-50 rout.Turnovers again hurt the Storm on Tuesday at Indiana to prevent them from closing their trip with a second victory. Seattle gave the ball away 19 times and allowed Indiana to shoot 53.7 percent in a 78-61 defeat."Tough loss," said forward Swin Cash, who had 13 points. "It will be good to get off the East Coast."The league's defending champions are 3-1 at home, but without Jackson, their lack of offensive production may be starting to catch up with them. The Storm are averaging a league-low 69.0 points -- 67.2 since Jackson's injury.Cash and Sue Bird have continued to produce, but Seattle is hoping it has someone up front who can at least pick up some of Jackson's production. Polish center Ewelina Kobryn, who played briefly at Connecticut and Indiana during the road trip, finally had a chance to go through a full practice Thursday."Now that I am here finally in Seattle, I hope I can help the team," Kobryn told the Storm's official website.