Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird lead the way as the Storm beat the Sparks 81-69.
The two youngest players in the Storm’s starting lineup became the forces that powered Seattle to a win over the defending WNBA champions on Saturday night.
Behind a 26-point day from Breanna Stewart, who’s in her second year with the Storm, and a 22-point showing from Jewell Loyd, who’s in her third, the Storm defeated the Los Angeles Sparks 81-69 at KeyArena.
“They’ve proven that they can score in this league, they can take over games and really dominate at certain points,” said Sue Bird, who has played for the Storm since 2002. “Considering it’s only their second and third year, that’s a good sign for things to come. They’re just going to get better and better.”
In the Storm’s season opener against the Sparks (12-5), the club was without Stewart and Sue Bird, who were out with knee injuries, and it lost by 10.
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When the teams met again on Saturday, Stewart hit the 20-point benchmark for the fourth consecutive game, and Bird had an accurate day, hitting 6 of 7 from the field for 15 points.
In Seattle’s last game, a loss against the New York Liberty on Thursday, Bird had only two points.
Seattle (8-9) hit 51.9 percent from the field Saturday.
Unlike in Thursday’s loss, Stewart said Seattle played with the fast tempo the team likes.
“When we play and we’re running and we’re out in transition, we’re not thinking as much,” Stewart said. “It’s easier to find things and find people. Defenses can’t guard it.”
Last week, the Sparks saw their eight-game win streak end with a loss to the Minnesota Lynx. The Sparks, who are unbeaten at home this year, have struggled on the road, where they are just 5-5.
Even though the Storm finished on top on Saturday, it has won just four of its last 12 games.
“We finally played the way we need to play in order to win games,” Bird said. “And what do you know? We won.”
Four Seattle players — Bird, Stewart, Loyd and Crystal Langhorne — had at least 10 points. Fewer than five minutes into the game, all five starters had scored. None of Seattle’s bench players scored in the game.
“When we are playing the way we are supposed to be playing, the ball is going to move and people are going to get opportunities,” Storm coach Jenny Boucek said. “Different people, different nights. And that’s when all of our players thrive. We finally got back to that. We haven’t played that way enough this season.”
In the second quarter, the Storm hit three three-pointers, two from Bird and one from Stewart, and Seattle was able to leap back into the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter. They went to the locker room down by two points.
Los Angeles’ Nneka Ogwumike, the Sparks’ top scorer so far this season, had no trouble against the Storm, earning 14 points in the first half and another seven in the second.
Seattle will play the Connecticut Sun on Wednesday, one of three games remaining in its homestand before the WNBA All-Star Game in Seattle on July 22.
Against the Sun, the Storm will be trying to put together its first two-game winning streak since the end of May.
“Sometimes you need to feel that,” Bird said of Saturday’s win. “We’ve been feeling a lot of losing, and sometimes when you feel something over and over, you get used to it. It’s good to turn the corner.”