Big second half leads Seattle to easy victory
The debut almost made people dizzy.
A revamped Storm lineup emphasized ball movement all night long to keep Los Angeles off balance and win its WNBA season opener, 86-61, Saturday at KeyArena.
“We knew that we were going to be playing an exciting brand of basketball,” said point guard Sue Bird of her 13th season playing in Seattle. “This was the extreme example. Every shot was falling. Every call was going our way. But we showed everybody what it can be. To feel that for a home opener is great.”
Seattle (1-0) outscored Los Angeles 16-6 to open the third quarter to build a 51-38 lead after a bucket by guard Renee Montgomery with 2:45 on the clock.
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The Storm extended the lead to 80-56 after a three-pointer by Montgomery with 2:18 left in the game. She led Seattle with 19 points off the bench. Seattle’s reserves outscored Los Angeles’ 40-16.
“We were very prepared coming into this game,” Montgomery said. “When I was in, I felt like I had been in situations that I had been in in practice. So, I felt completely comfortable. You could see we really trusted each other.”
Forward Crystal Langhorne led the Storm starters with 18 points and nine rebounds. She scored the final field goal in the opening half for her 3,000th career point.
Guard Alana Beard led Los Angeles (0-1) with 20 points. Teammate Jantel Lavender had 12 rebounds.
Los Angeles played without All-Star Nneka Ogwumike due to a sprained left ankle. Two-time MVP Candace Parker notified the team she’s taking an indefinite break to open the 2015 season while All-Star point guard Kristi Toliver is competing as a naturalized Slovakian citizen in the EuroBasket competition. The winner of the event qualifies for the 2016 Olympics.
Seattle, winless in five meetings against the Sparks last season, kicked off a busy offseason when former coach Brian Agler left to take the open coaching position with Los Angeles. In his return Saturday, Agler complimented the team’s young additions and the job head coach Jenny Boucek, his former associate head coach, has done designing a new offensive system.
Agler emphasized defense during his tenure in Seattle (2008-14), winning a WNBA championship in 2010. But the Storm was 12-22 his final season, ranking last in the league in points per game.
Bird said she recognized some of the defensive schemes the Sparks used against the Storm. But her team was able to execute, totaling 21 assists on 33 made field goals.
“We just weren’t sharp at times,” said Agler, whose team was held to 34.3 percent shooting from the field.
After Agler’s announced departure in January, the Storm traded fan-favorite Camille Little and Shekinna Stricklen to Connecticut; allowed free-agents Tanisha Wright (New York) and Noelle Quinn (Phoenix) to sign elsewhere; and cut Temeka Johnson, who rejoined Agler in Los Angeles.
The new-look Storm was well received before an announced crowd of 9,686, even though No. 1 overall draft choice Jewell Loyd didn’t score her first field goal until the third quarter. She was 2 of 10 from the field in 28 minutes and finished with seven points.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the No. 3 overall selection, was scoreless in five minutes of action.
“We still have a long way to go in what we want to look like,” Boucek said. “But it’s a good start.”
• Boucek used a 10-player roster. Alisha Valavanis, the team’s first-year general manager, cut rookies Jazmine Davis and Vicky McIntyre on Friday and signed Markeisha Gatling and Angel Goodrich on Saturday.
Gatling and Goodrich won’t join Seattle until its road game in Tulsa on Tuesday. Boucek is uncertain if either will play.
Goodrich, a 5-foot-4 guard, was drafted by the Shock in 2013 and averaged 14.3 minutes a game in two seasons, starting 16 as a rookie. Gatling was selected 10th overall by Chicago last year and cut Wednesday. She played in 29 games as a rookie, averaging 3.7 points and 2.4 rebounds a game.