The Seattle Storm face elimination from the WNBA playoffs at home tonight as the LA Sparks come into town looking to sweep the opening playoff series.

Los Angeles took control early of Game 1 on Wednesday at the Staples Center and came away with an easy win after holding the Storm to only 63 points.  Look for the Sparks to get another win tonight up north - or at least a cover should the game be tight at the buzzer.

WNBAWithout star Lauren Jackson in the lineup, the Storm struggled in Game 1 against the Sparks and could be in for another long night on their home floor.  Even 24 points from this year’s All-Star Game MVP, Swin Cash, of the Storm was not enough as Seattle was outrebounded 37-25 and could not get them out of the early hole dug for them by the Sparks.

With the series shifting gears up north, Storm fans are hoping that the home court will be enough to get wins in tonight’s game and get a deciding Game 3 clinched for Sunday.  Seattle has historically owned one of the biggest home court advantages in the WNBA with many teams fearing their trips up to the northwest.  This season, the Storm won 13 out of 17 games at home with two of the losses coming in overtime against the West-leading Phoenix Mercury.

While the Storm’s Sue Bird has led the league in assists, the Storm is not the same team without Jackson to pass the ball to.  Seattle has lost four of their last seven games with Jackson out of the lineup, and two of the three wins came against teams with losing records.  Storm center Janell Burse had been doing a decent job of filling in with more minutes in recent games, but only 11 minutes in the Wednesday’s matchup meant more time in the game for Suzy Batkovic off the bench who has rarely played more than 15 minutes in a game all season. 

Like the Storm, LA has had one of the top defenses in the league most of the season no matter which lineup took the floor for them.  The Sparks struggled early in the season being without Candace Parker or Lisa Leslie on quite a few occasions, but picked up momentum in time to finish third in the West standings.   More than a third of the points in Wednesday’s Game 1 came in the paint for LA and you can expect more of the same tonight.  Leslie and Parker both notched double-double’s and held Bird to only 1 for 9 in shooting from the field.

Adding veteran Tina Thompson to the Sparks lineup this season was expected to pay dividends come playoff time and it already has for LA.  She led LA in Game 1 with 16 points that night, and should get the ball her way a lot again tonight.  Thompson is an example of the depth advantage showcased by the Sparks over the Storm and she is a weapon who helped get LA a few wins through the season when Leslie or Parker were out of the lineup.

BetCRIS opened the line for tonight’s game yesterday favoring the Storm by 2 ½ points and at press time, the number has stayed there.  Although Seattle defeated LA in both meetings with them at home this season, keep in mind that one was in overtime with Leslie out for the Sparks and the other was a win by one bucket with both Leslie and Parker having to sit.  Tonight the Storm will have to face the fully-loaded Sparks, and without Jackson in Seattle’s lineup I feel you could make a case that the wrong team is favored tonight.  But because of the “must win” intensity that bettors feel the Storm will have, Seattle backers will end up paying the premium of laying what could be some deciding points down the stretch tonight.  Take advantage of the value, and grab the points with the LA Sparks as they look to close out the series tonight. 

WNBADream look for another high-scoring matchup in Game 2 against Shock
Friday night’s WNBA card also features a Game 2 from the Eastern Conference semifinals as the Atlanta Dream face elimination against the Detroit Shock.  With a wild game occurring on Wednesday, the Shock roared back from being down big to take Game 1 at the Palace of Auburn Hills.  Now Atlanta will have to even things out tonight by holding serve on their home floor or their dream season will be over.

One question mark in tonight’s game is the status of the Shock’s Deanna Nolan.  As announced last night, her status is uncertain after suffering a concussion in Game 1 and according to Cheryl Reeve on Twitter we will not know until tonight’s pre-game shoot around if Nolan will play for the Shock.  This could have big effects at tip time on the point spread and total so be sure to keep an eye out for line movement tonight.

With the Dream leading most of Game 1, it had to bring confidence to their lineup that they could win this series against the Shock.  Atlanta outrebounded Detroit that night even with the Shock’s Cheryl Ford pulling in 10 of her own.  I look for that to happen again tonight and if Erika DeSouza can stay out of foul trouble unlike Game 1, then the Dream will clearly have a solid chance of evening the series up.

The line for this game currently has Atlanta favored by 6 points and the total sits at 169.  Given how close Wednesday’s game was between these teams as with some of their matchups during the regular season, I would not want to be in a position of laying 6 points.  So rather than back Atlanta in that way, I am going with the total going over 169.

In order for Atlanta to win, they will need to control the tempo on their home floor and keep their solid offense running and gunning against the Shock.  The Dream have lit it up big time at home against many visitors coming in this season and averaged 88 points per game there.  I feel they will continue that pace – especially with this being a “must win” game for them.

Look for Detroit to also put their share of points on the board as well with or without Nolan.  To beat the Dream, they will have to put the ball in the hoop one way or the other and should be able to with Atlanta having one of the league’s loosest defenses.  The total should have been jacked up a few points higher here with four out of the five matchups this season going over the closing total between these teams, but bookmakers are clearly hesitant to raise it because of Nolan’s status.