Hoffman leads Sparks by Storm

Posted June 19, 2011, at 11:57 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — Reserve forward Ebony Hoffman scored 12 points to lead a balanced offense as the Los Angeles Sparks beat defending champion Seattle 74-50 on Sunday night, snapping a seven-game losing streak to the Storm.

Kristi Toliver scored 11 points and Candace Parker and rookie Jantel Lavender each added 10 for Los Angeles (3-1). The Sparks, who started 1-6 last season, had lost the last five regular season meetings with the Storm, and were swept in the playoffs last year.

“It was a test for us to see where we stand, and I think we showed that we’re a great team,” Hoffman said. “But it’s going to be another test to go back to Seattle and play there. We just have to keep capitalizing and keep building on where we are right now.”

Sue Bird scored 15 points to lead Seattle (2-2), which came in allowing a league-low 68.6 points per game.

“We knew what their strengths were and time and time again I think we had lapses where we let them do what they wanted to do,” Bird said. “They seemed very hungry, very motivated. They play hard every possession and they’re very versatile.”

Los Angeles shut down an MVP player for the second straight game, limiting Lauren Jackson to nine points on 3-for-14 shooting. The Sparks also held Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi to nine points in a 98-84 win on June 10.

The Sparks led 39-25 at halftime while limiting the Storm to 31 percent shooting from the field — including 2 for 11 on 3-pointers. Seattle got no closer than nine in the second half, trailing by double digits for the final 7 minutes.

“I thought this game told a lot about what type of team we are,” Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom said. “I thought this showed that we’re capable of playing anyone, anybody at any time. When we play together as a team, we’re going to be tough to stop.”

The Sparks’ reserves outscored their Storm counterparts 40-7.

DeLisha Milton-Jones’ jumper 4:07 into the game gave the Sparks a 7-6 lead and they didn’t trail again.

Tina Thompson made a 3 to start Los Angeles on a 9-2 run to start the second period in which the Sparks went to a zone defense.

“It slowed us down,” Bird said. “It’s something we have to work on, you know? Right now we’re kind of going through it a little bit and as a team we have to kind of stay with and figure ourselves out.”

Parker’s jumper with 3:14 left in the first half stretched the advantage to 33-14.

Neither team scored for the first 3:03 of the third quarter until Jackson converted a free throw on Milton-Jones’ technical. Bird’s 3-pointer 36 seconds later was the first basket for either team.

Seattle missed its first five shots after the break and had four turnovers. Los Angeles missed its first three shots with two turnovers.

After closing to 43-34 on Jackson’s 3 with 4:14 left in the third quarter, Seattle was outscored 31-16 the rest of the way.

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