LOS ANGELES — Nneka Ogwumike scored 23 points, newcomer Odyssey Sims added 20 and the Los Angeles Sparks opened defense of their WNBA title with a 78-68 victory over the Seattle Storm on Saturday.
Both teams were missing key players Candace Parker, Essence Carson and Jantel Lavender are still competing in the Turkish league playoffs and were absent as the Sparks raised their third championship banner with Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant in attendance.
The Storm announced before the game that Sue Bird and last season’s rookie of the year, Breanna Stewart, are still recovering from knee issues and are day-to-day.
Ogwumike, last season’s MVP, was 10 of 20 from the floor. Sims, acquired in a trade with Dallas after losing point guard Kristi Toliver to Washington, was 9 of 15 coming off the bench.
The Sparks led by one at halftime and took the lead for good on rookie Sydney Wiese’s first WNBA field goal, a 3-pointer, for a 50-47 lead late in the third quarter.
The Storm was within three with five minutes left but Ogwumike made consecutive baskets for a 10-point lead with three minutes to go.
Jewell Loyd scored 25 points but committed nine of Seattle’s 24 turnovers that turned into 29 Sparks points.