The LA Sparks prevailed as the Seattle Storm lost their Opening Night Game for the first time since 2005 (68-50 final). Los Angeles outscored the Storm 30-10 in the fourth quarter, rallying from a 14-point deficit. The Sparks trailed by as many as 21 points, 54-33.
In her Storm debut, Ann Wauters led the team with 17 points and newcomer Tina Thompson grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. Kristi Toliver scored a game-high of 25 points. Making their WNBA debuts, No. 1 pick Nneka Ogwumike scored nine points and No.2 pick Shekinna Stricklen scored five.
LA Sparks Head Coach Carol Ross was excited about the opening night win. “What a game, what a game. Seattle outplayed us most of the game, but what I was most proud of was our resiliency and our ability to weather the storm, no pun intended. They were tough and we just kept hanging around. We felt like if we could ever get it to single digits, psychologically we’d be in a better place. We just had a lot of players make big plays. Obviously [Kristi] Toliver shot the ball well. But we had so many big stops on the defensive end that turned into good offense for us. We started being a little smarter on the offensive end and it was just a good team win.”
Seattle Storm Head Coach Brian Agler shared, “We’re a work in progress, but first of all I’d give a lot of credit to LA [Sparks] and commend them for their play in the fourth quarter. They really played well, and they played a great defensive game. We’ve just got to keep working. We’re going to be in a situation that we’re going to have to continue to get better day by day. We had some really good signs and some really good play out there at times. But then we got pressure and they kind of took us out of some things, we started standing around. We’re going to be in an improvement mode right now.”
Is there anything specific to focus on before the next game? Agler dished, “We’ll watch film. These guys, when they get to this level, will learn a lot by watching themselves on film. We’ll focus on the turnovers and the stagnant offense. And just work on a variety of things. We’re still learning the offense and trying to get on the same page with some of our new people. It’s disappointing, but it’s a long season. We’ll keep working to get better. I hope that’s as bad as we’ll be in the fourth quarter. We don’t want to see that again. I’m hoping we can be better than we were in the first quarter, and be consistent. We’ll have to develop some toughness both physically and mentally. That’s going to have to come from some of our veteran players. We’ll get better as a team.”
Agler concluded, “There are no excuses. We just have to get better. We have to get time on the floor together and we will.”
Sue Bird had a few construction thoughts of her own to share. “Sometimes losses have a way of pointing things out, where you need to work on things, but this one I would have rather learned with a win. It’s very disappointing. It was a terrible game for us.”
Does Bird think the absence of Lauren Jackson had anything to do with the loss? “She’s a great player, but this season isn’t like other seasons where we haven’t had Lauren. We didn’t even start with her. Other seasons we had her in the beginning and for whatever reason injuries happened. And then we’ve had to adjust. This season we haven’t had her so you don’t really think about what you don’t have. Actually I would have loved to have had her, but who knows what would have happened. It doesn’t mean that we would have won, but in this particular game they played well and did some things to get the win, but I feel tonight like we gave this one away.”
Katie Smith took responsibility for the loss on behalf of the team. “It’s on us for how this thing played out. They played well, but we definitely didn’t do our part. I felt good playing defense. We were executing and making good passes. I feel good. I feel good playing the game. To me, basketball is not just about shooting the ball, its setting good picks, making a good pass. I felt really good about that tonight.”
Smith added, “We jumped out hard and played well in the first quarter. We slipped a little in the second [half], but in this game teams are just too good. You’re going to have runs. We’re going to make a run; they’re going to make a run. It just depends on whose run is longest and if you can nip it in the bud. Teams don’t go away. These are games where you’re not going to have too many blowouts. We’ve got some work to do, but we’re going to get better.”
The LA Sparks’ last win in Seattle was July 30, 2006. KeyArena was sold out (9,686) for the eighth consecutive Opening Night.