The top overall draft pick last month had 23 points, six rebounds and three assists but the Storm committed 24 turnovers and lost its season opener 96-66 in Los Angeles.

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LOS ANGELES — Breanna Stewart’s individual excellence proved insufficient to compensate for the Storm’s collective inadequacy as the team began its 17th season Sunday.

Despite Stewart’s 23 points, the Los Angeles Sparks overwhelmed the Storm early and often during a 96-66 rout in front of 10,591 at Staples Center.

Yet Stewart, the top overall selection in April’s WNBA draft, single-handedly dragged her teammates out of a 28-point deficit in the third quarter.


Storm @ Phoenix, 7 p.m.

The four-time NCAA champion from Connecticut made five of six field-goal attempts in that period and amassed 13 points. The Storm got to 70-57 with 7:41 remaining.

In the third, Stewart demonstrated the ability that enabled her to be named the three-time consensus national player of the year and three-time All-American.

The 6-foot-4 Stewart slashed through the air to receive a pass from Jewell Loyd and convert a layin with 5:20 left in the third quarter. Three-and-a-half minutes later, Stewart cradled the ball in the air while driving to complete another layin with a finger roll.

“She showed that she’s got a lot to her,” Storm coach Jenny Boucek said. “She’s only going to get better and better and better. She’s still got a ton to learn but that’s the exciting part about it.”

Stewart made nine of 13 shots overall, grabbed a team-high six rebounds, and had three assists, two steals, and a blocked shot. She committed three turnovers and five fouls in 34 minutes while being guarded by the Sparks’ Candace Parker, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and the WNBA’s two-time most valuable player.

“It was what I expected,” Stewart said of the physical play. “The players at this level are a lot stronger. You have to fight on every single play. There’s no letup.”

Stewart also expects a far different level of success than she experienced at Connecticut. The Huskies lost just five games in Stewart’s four seasons — and only one after her freshman year.

“College and the pros are two different worlds,” Stewart said. “That’s why you compete. You don’t want it to be a cakewalk all the time. In a game like this, where you have to fight hard to climb up that mountain, you want to be in the game.”

The Storm hurt itself by committing 24 turnovers that the Sparks used to score 20 points. Parker was the main beneficiary. She scored 21 points in the first half and finished with 34.

“She’s (Parker) one of the best players in the world for a reason,” Boucek said. “She’s been one of the best in the world her whole life.”

Los Angeles took control early by building an 8-0 lead. But Stewart and Jewell Loyd each scored six points to lead a 14-8 surge that made it 16-14. Loyd finished with 20 points.

However, the Storm scored just one point the rest of the first quarter, which ended with the Sparks leading 26-15. Seattle narrowed its deficit to 30-23 with six minutes left in the second period but managed just three more first-half points, and trailed 51-26 at halftime.

After Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ three-point shot brought the Storm to 13 points behind with 7:41 left in the third, the Sparks used a 13-2 blitz to take an 83-59 lead with 4:43 remaining.

“I’m glad we got our butt kicked,” Boucek said. “We’ve got such a long way to go to get the toughness and the grit you’ve got to have even to compete in this league, and to get to the point where the X’s and O’s matter.

“But I’m excited about the challenge. I’m excited about the future of this team. I’m excited about every step of the process. This is our starting point. It won’t be our finishing point.”