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Originally published May 16, 2014 at 10:01 PM | Page modified May 16, 2014 at 11:00 PM

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Sparks spoil Storm’s opener

The Storm dropped to 9-6 in home openers at KeyArena and snapped a streak of nine straight sold-out home openers, playing before 8,749 on Friday.


Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

Storm @ Phoenix, 7 p.m.

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The Storm kicked off its 15th season on Friday, but the celebration faded away in the second half.

It got so quiet that on-court conversations were easily heard as Los Angeles’ deeper, bigger lineup buried Seattle in the Sparks’ 80-69 victory at KeyArena.

The Storm dropped to 9-6 in home openers at KeyArena and snapped a streak of nine straight sold-out home openers, playing before 8,749 on Friday.

“There was no opposition,” Storm guard Tanisha Wright said of her team’s play. Seattle committed 19 turnovers that led to 25 L.A. points. “We just let them get too comfortable.”

In 2004, the season the Storm won its inaugural championship, the team drew 6,624 to a season-opening win against Minnesota at KeyArena. Since then, Seattle has hit its lower-bowl sellout mark (9,686) in home openers.

Without Australian star Lauren Jackson the past two seasons and point guard Sue Bird last season, there has been some erosion to the fan base. Bird’s return from a knee injury did little to reignite the spark on Friday, finishing with seven points on 2-for-8 shooting in 25 minutes.

“Up until the final horn, it felt great to be out there,” Bird said.

Los Angeles opened the second quarter on a 7-0 run and closed the opening half leading 43-32 after a putback by Sparks guard Lindsey Harding as the horn sounded. The Sparks used a 10-0 run in the third quarter to extend the lead to 53-34.

Storm newcomer Jenna O’Hea, an Australian forward, revved up the crowd with a three-pointer with 5:53 left in the game to pull Seattle to 67-59.

Sparks guards Alana Beard and Kristi Toliver responded with a jumper and three-pointer, respectively, to end Seattle’s threat.

O’Hea finished with 12 points off the bench, the only Storm player to score in double figures.

“I started off very nervous and was surprised (coach) Brian (Agler) went back with me because of how terribly I started,” said O’Hea of re-entering the game against her former team. O’Hea played the three seasons in Los Angeles.

“But I was able to focus on the game and my teammates got me some open shots, which got my confidence going,” O’Hea said.

The Sparks (1-0) had four players score in double digits, led by 18 from Candace Parker. Beard added 17 with five assists.

“Our first group just had a real hard time getting it going,” Agler said of his starting lineup. He barely played the unit in the fourth quarter, with guard Noelle Quinn playing the most at two minutes.

“I was really happy how that second group played from the middle of the third quarter on,” Agler continued. “We’re in a situation where we’ve got to learn a lot about ourselves right now.”

Seattle was blown out 102-69 at L.A. to open its season last year and finished at 17-17 with a 10th straight postseason berth.

This year, it will be a tough road, literally, to begin the season.

The Storm leaves Saturday for a game at Phoenix. It departs again next week for a four-game road trip against Eastern Conference teams. Seattle plays 10 of its upcoming 12 games on the road.

“It’s not ideal,” Wright said of the upcoming schedule. “It’s coming, and it’s coming quick. But we’ve got to be ready for the challenge because it’ll definitely show our character.”

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067

or jevans@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @JaydaEvans



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