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May 18, 2012 at 6:40 PM

Live game thread: Los Angeles at Seattle

STORM LOSES: Guess the lesson is Seattle still really can’t play without Bird while LA can manage without Parker. As both the stars took extended breaks in the second half, the Sparks went on a 29-8 run stretched across the third quarter to the 2:53 mark of the fourth to tie the score at 62 points apiece. From there, Toliver hit three-pointers and Seattle’s fight faded as LA won 72-66 before a sold out crowd of 9,686. “It was great,” Parker said of watching most of the run. She finished with 11 points. “We made our run with our defense and transition baskets. It’s hard to hold a lead like that. When you’re up by that much, you tend to try to hold the ball and try not to let the other team score. I think we took advantage of that.” Good news is Seattle (0-1) plays the Sparks (1-0), again, Tuesday after a day off Saturday and two practices. The alarming part is six Storm players who’ve played at least five years in the league don’t or didn’t act like they understand WNBA games aren’t over just because you have a 21-point lead in the third quarter. Hello. Didn’t Seattle come back from 28 down once? Toliver led all scorers with 25 points, 17 in the second half. The biggest was a three-pointer where she got a lucky bounce. Wauters shined for Seattle, finishing with 17 points and seven boards. “I hope that’s as bad as we’ll be in the fourth quarter,” said Agler of the polarizing quarters his team played from the first to last. “We don’t want to see that again. I’m hoping we can be even better than we were in the first quarter and be consistent. We’ll 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.”
BREAK TIME II: I’m checking out to write the daily story. Follow me on Twitter (@JaydaEvans or look to the right of your screen) for a quick update on the final score. Otherwise I’ll be back afterward for a wrap.
HEY NEWBIE: The massive lead is allowing Agler to go to his bench, putting second-year F Victoria Dunlap in the game. She score a putback for her first points as a member of the Storm. Add another trey by Thompson and the Storm is up 54-33 with 2:20 left in the third.
TT FOR THREE: Thompson scored two three-pointers early in the second half and Seattle is up 41-26 with 6:59 on the clock. She must have felt some of those brewing gripes about her lack of offense in the opener.
A FIRST: Nneka scored her first points as a pro, a jumper with 9:16 on the clock in the third quarter. The Sparks are down 38-26.


A FIRST: Nneka scored her first points as a pro, a jumper with 9:16 on the clock in the third quarter. The Sparks are down 38-26.
LINEUP CHANGE: Seattle is going with the same starters for the second half. LA substituted Toliver for Milton-Jones, going with a smaller lineup.
HALFTIME: Kudos to the Storm defense. It’s holding LA to a frustrating 27.3 percent shooting from the field. That’s mainly due to the work Little, Thompson and Wauters are doing in the paint. Seattle has taken less shot attempts (27 to 33) because of Bird and Wauters’ efficiency. The duo have 11 and 10 points, respectively. Critics are going to squawk about Thompson’s 1-for-6 FG stat, but she’s leading the team in rebounding (six). Seattle is shooting 48.1 percent from the field overall, 62.5 percent from three-point range and has scored 12 points off 14 LA miscues. Toliver (eight points) leads LA while Nneka is scoreless and Milton-Jones is 0-for-5 from the field. Parker has five points on 2-for-7 shooting.
ANGRY BIRD: LA crept within 29-24, but Bird hit two three-pointers to stretch the lead, again. Seattle has committed three shot-clock violations, which is concerning. The team leads 35-24 at the break.
SLOPPY PLAY: With six seconds left on the clock after some sloppy passing, Bird committed a turnover and Beard scored the opening layin for LA. The Sparks also got Seattle in a shot-clock violation turnover. It’s the downside to a loaded roster — everyone can shoot, so the players are unselfish is passing the ball and passing up open shots they would have taken otherwise. Seattle leads 29-21 with 4:13 left in the second half.
HAVE SOME MORE: LA G Kristi Toliver loves the nets at the Key and she’s nailed three three-pointers off the bench to keep the Sparks, ahem, close at 29-18 with 6:23 left in the opening half. Clearly Seattle needs work on its perimeter defense. Two of the attempts were wide open, signaling the Storm didn’t learn much over the years.
BREAK TIME: Wright is running the offense while Bird rests on the bench with Wauters to open the second quarter. It’s an important look as the Storm grinds through the season. With only three guards (until Stricklen comes along), the Storm coach Brian Agler is going to need to rely on that backcourt look. Seattle’s up 27-13 after a three pointer from Thompson. The vet also has four boards early.
STANDING O: The first quarter isn’t even in the books and the StormCrazies have already given Wauters a standing ovation when she joined Bird in checking out of the game with 25 seconds remaining. Wauters leads all scorers with 10 points and Bird has three assists with five points. Stricklen has also made a splash, nailing a three-pointer and scoring a short jumper for her first points as a pro. Seattle leads 24-10 at the end of the quarter.
DEBUT: Stricklen is on the court with Katie Smith, substituting for Thompson and Wright. It’s the rookies debut with 4:53 on the clock in the opening quarter.
SIT DOWN: LA finally got on the board with a silky layin by Coleman with 6:05 on the clock. “Y’all thought you were going to stand all night?!” belted Big Lo, a longtime super fan for all of the city’s professional sports. Seattle leads 13-2 after another Wauters score.
TIME!: LA had to call time because they don’t have the defensive quickness to keep up with Seattle. Thompson and Bird keep feeding Wauters, who hasn’t missed. She’s 3-for-3 from the field for six early points. Parker has only attempted one shot. Seattle is up 11-0 with 7:15 on the clock.
WHO’S READY?: Seattle gained possession from the opening tip and the first play was Bird racing down court for an alley-oop pass to Wauters with 9:50 on the clock. On defense Thompson blocked a Beard jumper and Wright just made two FTs. Seattle is up 4-0 with 9:06 on the clock. Yeah, this could be a fun season.
SITTING OUT: Neither team listed any injuries but Sparks C Nicky Anosike isn’t dressed due to a knee sprain. She was a trade acquisition in February from Washington. Bird opted to go without the face mask, by the way. She wondered if she needed a practice first, cleared on Thursday to ditch the fashion faux pas. “It’s all mental at this point,” she said of protecting her beak.
NEW LEADER: On the outside, LA was a mess last season. A talented squad piece together by GM Penny Toler was hindered by injures and then coaching issues where legend Jennifer Gillom was fired mid-season for the return of Joe Bryant. Well, Toler hopes she ended the cycle with the hiring of former Atlanta assistant Carol Ross, who was a longtime college coach. Gillom is still in the league, though, as an assistant at Washington. She’s also as assistant for the USA Basketball Olympic team. She wouldn’t talk about any perceived issues in LA. “That’s all in the past and I’m so happy now,” Gillom expressed when Team USA was in Seattle last week. While things are good in Washington, Gillom didn’t rule out a return to the head coaching seat, even considering a move to college. Nell Fortner, Van Chancellor and former Storm head coach Anne Donovan are among those to make the reverse transition.
YOLO: After Thursday’s final tune-up for the season, Little was asked to pick the song when the Storm takes the court. It’s a tradition that started with Bird and was dished to former F Le’coe Willingham. If Little did follow through, she picked a good one for this season: Drake “The Motto,” which essentially is you only live once.
KeyArena is starting to fill up for the Storm’s 13th WNBA opener. Seattle is hosting Los Angeles in a rivalry that predated the team with Australian Lauren Jackson going at legend Lisa Leslie in the Olympics and kicked up a notch with a brawl between Michelle Marciniak and Latasha Byears.
All of those players are gone, however, Jackson joining her national team again for the upcoming London Olympic Games. It’s the new bloods taking over to get the league’s 16th season started. For Los Angeles, Candace Parker is back after a knee injury in 2011. For Seattle, Belgian C Ann Wauters is back after taking a break from WNBA play and having a baby last year.
They’ll be the new battle in the paint on Friday. But the game also highlights the top two draft picks in two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year, Stanford star Nnemkadi Ogwumike (LA) and Tennessee standout Shekinna Stricklen, the No. 2 overall pick to Seattle. The latter is playing off the bench while Nneka is starting.
Seattle is 8-4 all-time in home openers, 2-2 when those games feature the Sparks. The teams split a four-game series last year, LA missing the postseason by a game. Will they get it kick-started on Friday to snap the Storm’s six-game win streak in opening day wins? Or will Seattle continue its dominance at the Key?
There’s only one way to figure the answer and it begins with your starting lineups:
SPARKS
F Nnemkadi Ogwumike
F DeLisha Milton-Jones
C Candace Parker
G Alana Beard
G Marissa Coleman
STORM
F Tina Thompson
F Camille Little
C Ann Wauters
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Michael Price, Cameron Inouye, and Byron Jarrett.

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