By Seth Dahle
LOS ANGELES – Despite shooting 52 percent from the field, Seattle couldn’t overcome 23 turnovers in a 78-68 setback to Los Angeles in its season opener on Saturday afternoon at the STAPLES Center.
The Sparks turned those miscues into 29 points, as Nneka Ogwumike led the way with 23 points on 10-for-20 shooting.
Jewell Loyd paced the Storm with a game-high 25 points, four dimes and four rebounds, while Ramu Tokashiki and Crystal Langhorne added 14 and 13 points, respectively.
While Candace Parker and Jantel Lavender were missing in action for Los Angeles, the Storm played without Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, and head coach Jenny Boucek applauded the team for its toughness.
“This is a tough first game for us without Sue and Stewie, just because they put so much pressure on you,” said Boucek. “You need as many ball handlers as possible. Considering that, we found a way to hang around for most of the game, and I was really pleased with the way our team competed and the way they kept their composure.”
Trailing 9-8 in the first quarter, Loyd knocked down a triple to spark a 13-10 run to cap the quarter, as Seattle (0-1) connected on eight of its last 10 shots of the frame to take a one-point (21-20) lead. Loyd and Langhorne combined for 17 points in the quarter on eight-for-11 shooting, and the Storm also posted eight first-quarter assists.
To open the second frame, Tokashiki netted two free throws before Noelle Quinn’s extra pass found Sami Whitcomb in the left corner for the triple to extend Seattle’s advantage to six (26-20). The Sparks responded with six unanswered points before Tokashiki and Loyd knocked down midrange jumpers to put the Storm back up by four (30-26). Seattle had trouble taking care of the ball, and Ogwumike buried two three’s amidst a 10-0 Sparks run to put Los Angeles on top, 36-30. But Loyd continued to keep the Storm close, scoring seven of the last nine to pull Seattle to within one (38-37) at the half.
Despite committing 15 first-half turnovers, the Storm shot 16-for-27 (59.3 percent) from the floor in the opening two frames and owned a 17-13 advantage on the glass. For the fourth time in her career, Loyd scored at least 15 points in the first half, as she led the way for Seattle with 18 first-half points, including seven straight at one point in the second quarter.
Both teams struggled to get anything going offensively out of the locker room, but Loyd scored on the reverse and then went 2-for-2 at the line to give Seattle its first lead (45-44) of the second half. With the game tied at 47 apiece, the Sparks capped the third stanza with a 7-2 run, as Ogwumike nailed a jumper in the final seconds of the quarter.
Los Angeles (1-0) scored five quick points to open the fourth and stretch its lead to 10 (59-49), but Seattle responded with a 9-2 run to pull within three (59-56) after a jumper by Tokashiki. After Los Angeles went back up by seven (65-58), Quinn knocked down a three before Langhorne notched a three-point play the old fashioned way to cut the deficit to three (67-64). Chelsea Gray fired back with a three in the corner, and then Ogwumike scored twice inside to start a 9-2 Sparks run to seal it for Los Angeles.
Odyssey Sims added 20 points and six assists for Los Angeles, while Gray tied Quinn for game-high honors with eight assists.
Seattle tips off its home slate tomorrow vs. Indiana at 4 p.m. PDT. Fans can secure the best seats in the house with Storm 360 Memberships, available now, starting at $180, available online or by calling (206) 217-WNBA (9622). Packages and group discounts are available at 206-217-WNBA (9622).