Seattle Storm rides big run to beat L.A. Sparks, 77-57

SEATTLE — Every team has its favorite matchup. For Seattle, it’s Los Angeles.

The heated rivalry has morphed into a matchup advantage for the Storm in an odd season without franchise superstars Sue Bird (knee) and Lauren Jackson (hamstring). And on Tuesday, Seattle used that advantage along with a near-perfect second quarter to swipe a 77-57 win at KeyArena.

The Storm hadn’t defeated the Sparks at home since 2011. The win marks the first time the Storm has won back-to-back games at KeyArena this season. Seattle beat defending-champion Indiana 77-70 on Saturday.

Seattle led 23-21 at the end of the first quarter. It went on a 23-8 run to build a 46-29 lead with 3:27 remaining in the opening half. Point guard Temeka Johnson sprinted behind the Sparks’ defense twice for layins that gave Seattle the 17-point lead — the Storm’s largest of the half.

The Sparks closed to 63-55 with 7:49 remaining in the game. The Storm forced three turnovers and forced Jantel Lavender and Lindsey Harding into a bad shots to get the lead back up to 69-55. Johnson swept the baseline for a layin and made a short jumper to reignite Seattle’s offense.

Johnson finished with a game-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. It was her first double-digit scoring game in her past four outings.

Seattle’s win snapped L.A.’s league-best six-game winning streak. The Sparks were averaging 80.3 points while holding opponents to an average of 68 points on 38.2 percent shooting during the run.

Sparks sharpshooter Kristi Toliver entered the game as the WNBA’s Player of the Week, averaging 21.5 points in two wins last week. But she committed three fouls in the first half, limiting Toliver to 10 minutes and 0-for-2 shooting in the opening half.

MVP candidate Candace Parker was 4 for 10 from the field for nine points and 10 rebounds. L.A. was led by forward Nneka Ogwumike’s 12 points.

Los Angeles (18-8) missed a chance to take sole possession of first place in Western Conference standings with a win in Seattle (12-13), as Minnesota (18-7) lost 88-75 in Atlanta. The first two playoffs spots receive home court advantage in the best-of-three WNBA opening round.