By Seth Dahle
The Seattle Storm will look to rebound from a season-opening setback to defending WNBA champion Los Angeles, as the team heads back to KeyArena for its home opener tomorrow vs. Indiana at 4 p.m. PDT.
The Sparks turned 23 Seattle turnovers into 29 points, as the Storm nearly rallied from a 10-point, second-half deficit before falling by 10 (78-68).
Head coach Jenny Boucek applauded her team’s effort, especially since the Storm was without 2016 All-WNBA First Team selection Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, the reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year.
“I was really proud of the effort, composure and the fact that we were able to compete and give ourselves a chance for most of the game,” said Boucek.
Seattle certainly gave itself a chance, as it crawled to within three (67-64) midway through the fourth quarter before Los Angeles closed with an 11-4 run to seal it.
Jewell Loyd led the way with a game-high 25 points, including 18 in the first half, on 10-for-18 shooting. Ramu Tokashiki and Crystal Langhorne also came up big, adding 14 and 13 points, respectively.
“We’re just trying to get back into things, and the biggest thing we could take away from this game is that we definitely competed,” said Loyd on Saturday after the loss.
Fortunately for Seattle, home openers have been friendly, as the Storm owns an 8-3 record since the 2006 campaign.
“Home openers are always a blast,” said Boucek. “I love seeing our fans. We miss seeing them, and it’s always great to see them out there and reconnect.”
To celebrate Mother’s Day, kids receive free admission (up to four with purchase of one adult ticket) to Sunday’s contest, and the first 3,000 fans in attendance will get a free Storm t-shirt.
Seattle won five of its last six regular-season games to cap 2016 and earn the No. 7 seed in the WNBA Playoffs. The Storm enjoyed an 11-point lead in the second stanza at Atlanta before the Dream rallied in the second half to steal a 94-85 win. It was Seattle’s first playoff appearance since 2013.
LAST TIME OUT: INDIANA FEVER
A playoff contender in 2016, Indiana dropped its two preseason games at home vs. Washington and on the road at Dallas. In the loss to the Wings, the Fever actually led by as many as 13 in the first half before Dallas rallied in the third and fourth quarters.
In the Fever’s 2017 preseason slate, Erica Wheeler averaged 9.5 points and 3.5 assists per game, and Candice Dupree added 8.5 points and four boards per contest. While she did not play against Washington, Tiffany Mitchell netted 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting at Dallas.
Although Seattle trails the all-time series vs. Indiana, 15-18, it owns an 11-5 mark at KeyArena. The Storm has never faced the Fever in a home opener.
Last season, Seattle went 1-2 vs. Indiana, with its lone win coming on the road in a 90-88 thriller, as Loyd netted the game-winning free throws with just 2.4 seconds left.
Indiana posted a 17-17 record in 2016, and while WNBA legend Tamika Catchings is gone to retirement, the Fever returns Shenise Johnson (9.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG in 2016) and adds five-time WNBA All-Star Candice Dupree, who averaged 7.5 points and 3.5 boards last year with Phoenix.