Los Angeles, Calif. – The Sparks opened their season Sunday with a 102-69 routing of Seattle that was the largest margin of victory in franchise history.
Los Angeles used a variety of offensive schemes and stifling second-half defense to bury their opponents, outscoring them 31-12 in the third quarter alone. The Sparks shot 62 percent for the game and were 75 percent on three-point shots.
Kristi Toliver lead five other LA teammates in double figures with 17 points, while Nneka Ogwumike had 15 and Alana Beard, 13.
Coach Carol Ross was especially pleased with her team’s 26 assists, because she said it showed they were sharing the ball.
“I thought we were very unselfish on the offensive end, and we turned down good shots for great shots,” Ross said. “We’re fortunate, too, that we were shooting the ball really well. It was just exceptional team work on the offensive end.”
Los Angeles mounted a 28-20 lead at the end of the first period, which turned into a 53-41 margin at halftime. They began their third quarter explosion with a 24-5 run that was a balanced attack. None of the starters played in the fourth quarter, but the Sparks were able to maintain at least a 30-point lead throughout. All 11 players scored.
“We love balance, and it’s always good when you can get a lot of looks for different people, Ross said. “The good part is they gave themselves good looks. A lot of those baskets that were scored weren’t off plays – it was players making plays.”
“What I loved is the fact that we were able to score in different ways. Anytime you can have a variety, it makes you that much tougher to guard and scout.”
The Storm, facing a season without point guard Sue Bird and center Lauren Jackson, who are both injured, struggled to make shots. Camille Little lead Seattle with 13 points, while Tanisha Wright and Temeka Johnson each added 11.
Coach Brian Agler said that while they are a better team than the score indicated, they still have work to accomplish.
“I do think in the first half we did some good things in the first half. I just don’t think we are conditioned defensively yet,” he said. “It’s more than just going out and practicing a play. You have to have mental conditioning and psychical conditioning. There’s also a lot of teamwork involved. We have to go back and work on it this week.”
The game marked the Los Angeles debut for Lindsay Harding, whom the team acquired as a free agent over the winter. She was 5-6 shooting and finished with 12 points and eight assists. She delighted the crowd by driving to the basket twice.
Harding, who most recently played for the Atlanta Dream, said she had to get used to her new team quickly.
“When I first got here, it wasn’t ‘get to know your teammates,’ it was like, ‘you’re our point guard, our leader, go,'” Harding said. “So they came in expecting me to be that. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, and it’s only been two weeks, but it’s going well so far.”
The Sparks have now beat the Storm seven consecutive times.