SEATTLE — The stage was set for a celebration on Friday.
It was opening night of the Seattle Storm’s 15th season in the WNBA and 8,749 fans filled KeyArena. It was also the first game back for point guard Sue Bird after missing the entire 2013 season with injury.
The Los Angeles Sparks spoiled the party.
Aided by a 9-0 run to open the second quarter and a 10-0 run early in the third, the Sparks defeated the Storm 80-69.
“We’re going to learn from this,” Bird said. “It’s unfortunate to lose at home. It’s unfortunate (to lose) our home-opener. But I think we saw what we need to do and now we know. Hopefully we can build on that.”
The Sparks built a 43-32 lead by halftime thanks in large part to Seattle’s inability to take care of the basketball. The Storm committed 14 turnovers that turned into 19 points for Los Angeles.
“One of the things that killed us tonight was turnovers,” Bird said. “Myself, I’m number one on that list for that category tonight. Give credit to their defense, but a lot of it is just getting used to each other.”
Bird had four turnovers in the first half and finished the game with five.
The Storm took better care of the basketball in the second half, turning the ball over just five more times, but the damage had been done.
“You just can’t turn the ball over in this league,” Storm head coach Brian Agler said. “Not only do you take a possession away from yourself, but you’re putting yourself in a really bad position defensively because you’re usually in a scramble situation. That’s going to be really important for our team this year — how efficient we can be offensively.”
Some of Seattle’s difficulty taking care of the basketball could be due to lack of playing experience together. Four of the 11 players on the roster are new to the team.
“There’s always a comfort-level that comes when you play with people for a certain amount of time,” Bird said. “This group just hasn’t been able to develop that yet. I do think it can come as quickly as a week, as quickly as a day, but it definitely has to come. We all have to focus on that.”
The lack of experience with her new teammates didn’t seem to bother guard Jenna O’Hea, who led the Storm with 12 points and was the only Seattle player to score in double figures. O’Hea spent last season with the Sparks.
“I think started off very nervously because of that reason,” O’Hea said of playing against her former team. “I was surprised (coach Agler) went back to me just because of how terribly I started, but I was able to get myself into the game and my teammates got me some open shots which got my confidence going.”
While O’Hea was a bright spot for the Storm, they likely will need more than 12 points from their leading scorer going forward.
“We have to generate more points, more scoring opportunities, more easy scoring opportunities,” Bird said. “I think that group at the end, they just started playing and they were able to score some points and get some layups and some easy buckets. That helps you.”
O’Hea was on the floor at the end of the game along with fellow reserves Shekinna Stricklen, Angel Robinson, Alysha Clark as well as starting guard Noelle Quinn. The group trimmed Los Angeles’ lead to eight points midway through the fourth quarter, but were unable to get any closer.
The Storm face Phoenix tonight in their first road game of the season. Seattle plays 10 of its next 12 games away from KeyArena.
“We can’t change it, so we have to embrace it, come together as a team and have the ability to win on the road,” Agler said.
Aaron Lommers covers the Seattle Storm for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.