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Originally published July 19, 2013 at 5:01 PM | Page modified July 20, 2013 at 5:42 PM

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Storm still trying to break out of first-quarter rut

The Storm has struggled in the first quarters of games this season, particularly in recent games. Coach Brian Agler has moved Shekinna Stricklen into the starting lineup, replacing Noelle Quinn, in an effort to find more offense.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

L.A. Sparks @ Storm, 7 p.m., KONG

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The Storm has stopped talking about it.

Seattle has been outscored 302-220 in the first quarter of its games this season. The Storm has scored in double figures in the opening quarter in only two of its past five games. The sole positive is the team is 5-7 when trailing after the first 10 minutes, so a bad start doesn’t always mean a loss.

Not that the team finds comfort in the fact.

For the third straight game, Storm coach Brian Agler will start second-year forward Shekinna Stricklen in hopes the move will generate early scoring when Seattle (6-9) hosts Los Angeles (11-5) on Saturday. The Storm has been outscored 39-23 to start games since the change Sunday, defeating then-Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta and losing to Tulsa, which is last in the Western Conference.

“It’s come to that point of enough talking, let’s put it into action,” said veteran forward Noelle Quinn. Agler moved Quinn to the bench in hopes Stricklen would generate an offensive spark. It hasn’t flared yet.

Stricklen is 5 for 17, scoring 14 points and Quinn is 3 for 10, with 11 points, in the two games in their new roles. Agler says the move is not just about jump-starting the offense immediately, but for the team’s future.

Quinn has been working on penetrating more to get in scoring position. She shot 40 percent from three-point range for Washington last season.

Stricklen, the team’s 2012 lottery pick, is still being groomed to be a full-time starter. She’s slightly improved from her rookie season, averaging 9.2 points on 37.4 percent shooting overall and grasping Agler’s defensive sets.

“It’s an adjustment,” Quinn said of the changes she’s making in her style of play. “I’m still working on it. I’m my own worst critic and I feel like I’m not at my best. But anything that Brian suggests to me is only going to make me better. I’m just working through it.”

Los Angeles is a tricky team to score against, however. The Sparks force 15.5 turnovers per game and opponents are shooting 40 percent against a team that features a frontcourt that includes 2008 MVP Candace Parker and 2012 rookie of the year Nneka Ogwumike.

The Sparks defeated the Storm 102-69 in the teams’ season opener at Staples Center. Los Angeles had a six-game win streak snapped by Phoenix on Thursday.

Agler will have nine players available Saturday. He cut center Nakia Sanford on Thursday and won’t sign a 10th player until Sunday.

“We’re still a new group, if you look at our team,” Quinn said. “But it’s the middle of the season now and time to get the ball rolling.”

Note

• The Storm will honor Interagency Academy principal and educator Kaaren Andrews, GSBA President and CEO Louise Chernin, former governor Chris Gregoire and former University of Washington basketball player Melissa Erickson as its 2013 Inspiring Women. Erickson died in June at age 34 after a seven-year battle with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The ceremony will be at halftime of the team’s game against Chicago on Aug. 15 at KeyArena.

Slow starters
The Storm hasn’t led at the end of the first quarter since a June 28 game against New York. In the six games since, the Storm has been outscored 122-58 in the first quarter.
Date, opponent First-quarter scoreFinal score
July 17, vs. Tulsa 19-11, Tulsa 87-59, Tulsa
July 14, vs. Atlanta 20-12, Atlanta 73-65, Storm
July 9, at New York 24-7, New York 66-57, New York
July 6, at Washington 21-7, Washington 62-59, Washington
July 2, at Chicago 21-7, Chicago 69-60, Storm
June 30, at Indiana 17-14, Indiana 71-63, Indiana

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.

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