The Storm dropped its season opener on Sunday, losing 96-66 on the road to the Sparks. It was a 13-point game with 7:41 to go, but Candace Parker guided L.A. to a dominant fourth quarter to clinch the victory. Parker had a game-high 34 points, while No. 1 draft pick Breanna Stewart scored 23 and Jewell Loyd added 20 for Seattle.
Here are the three main takeaways from Sunday’s game.
Stewart Doesn’t Back Down Against Parker
There were a couple of times when Parker made Stewart look like a rookie, but for the most part, you couldn’t ask for a better WNBA debut from the UConn product. Her 23 points came on 9-of-13 shooting, and Stewart also had six rebounds, three assists and two steals.
She didn’t make any of her outside shots, yet Stewart still showed the array of different things she can do, including a coast-to-coast layup after intercepting Parker’s pass in the first quarter. Stewart was especially dominant in the third quarter, scoring on six of the Storm’s first eight possessions and finishing the period with 13 points. While Parker and the Sparks got the best of Seattle, Stewart was a bright spot in Sunday’s defeat.
“She shows that she has a lot to offer, getting better and better,” head coach Jenny Boucek said. “She still has a ton to learn, and that’s the exciting part. When you have a young team, you have to learn as quickly as you can. Experience is the best teacher. And I welcome every experience we will have.”
Loyd Showing She Can Run the Point
During a good portion of her 36 minutes on Sunday, Loyd was bringing the ball up and directing the offense. The reigning Rookie of the Year finished with a game-high five assists one week after notching eight dimes in the final preseason game. Loyd has mainly been a shooting guard throughout her career – she averaged 1.9 assists as a rookie – but now she’s displaying the ability to play multiple positions as a pro.
Another promising sign is that she had solid chemistry with Stewart on Sunday: Loyd assisted on three of the rookie’s nine field goals.
Turnovers, Outside Shooting Make the Difference
With a new face in the starting lineup, it’s reasonable to expect the Storm to have some growing pains on the offensive end. On Sunday, it didn’t help that the Sparks used full-court pressure throughout the contest and did anything they could to disrupt Seattle’s game plan.
The Storm turned the ball over 24 times, including an eight-second violation in the first half and a violation on the inbounds pass to start the fourth quarter. Seattle also shot just 1-for-10 from three-point range, while L.A. made six of its 15 attempts.
“It was a challenge,” Stewart said. “We have to compete all night. There are a lot of things that we need to get better at.”