Sparks beat Storm 102-69 in season opener

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Sparks haven’t shied away from talking about their championship aspirations entering the 2013 season.

Between hot shooting, a diverse offensive attack and an effective defense, they looked the part of a championship-caliber team on Sunday night in their opener.

Kristi Toliver scored 17 points to lead six players in double figures as Los Angeles routed the Seattle Storm 102-69.

“It was really beautiful offense,” Los Angeles coach Carol Ross said. “What I loved was the fact that we were able to score in different ways. We were able to score in half-court, we could play the pick and roll game, we could play full court, and we got to the foul line and produced. Anytime you can have a variety, it makes you that much tougher to guard and scout.”

The 33-point margin of victory was the largest in Sparks history, and the 102 points were the second-most in team history.

Nneka Ogwumike had 15 points, Alana Beard 13 and Candace Parker 10 for the Sparks, who shot 62 percent from the field — including shooting 75 percent from behind the 3-point line. The diverse scoring attack was facilitated by 26 assists, compared to just nine turnovers.

“I thought we were very unselfish on the offensive end, we turned down good shots for great shots,” Sparks coach Carol Ross said. “We were fortunate too that we were shooting the ball very well. There was just exceptional teamwork on the offensive end.”

Los Angeles led by 12 at the half before going on a 24-5 run to begin the third quarter and put the game away. The Sparks led by 31 points at the end of the third and rested their starters for most of the fourth.

“We’re a very unselfish team,” added Toliver. “I think that’s the main thing, we have threats at all five positions. You can’t just focus on one or two people when everybody is a threat to score the basketball.”

Lindsey Harding had 12 points and eight assists in her Sparks debut. The veteran guard was signed as a free agent in the offseason and said she has felt comfortable quickly with her new team.

“When I first got here.it was ‘You’re our point guard and our leader, go’,” Harding said. “They came in expecting me to be that, so it’s been a little bit of an adjustment but I feel good so far.”

Camille Little scored 13 points to lead Seattle, which is playing this season without Lauren Jackson (hamstring) and Sue Bird (knee). Without their two All-Stars, the Storm struggled. They had nearly as many turnovers (12) as assists (16) and shot just 41 percent from the field, including 18 percent from 3-point range.

“We got beat bad,” Seattle coach Brian Agler said. “I don’t like it. It’s a little embarrassing. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Los Angeles has now won seven straight games against Seattle dating back to the 2011 season.

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