Los Angeles, CA -- Candace Parker came out of the gates with energy and aggression, playing as though she had something to prove. Maybe she was playing with more fire after being snubbed from making the Olympic team or maybe the excitement of a new season and starting the chase for the title.
Led by their star, Los Angeles dominated as a team.
"When we came in, we just wanted to set the tone defensively and play with a lot of energy, and I think we did that," said Parker. "I am excited about what this team is capable of, obviously, this is a big step, but we don't know where we are, we are still trying to figure out our measuring stick. This road trip will definitely be big for us to see where we are."
On the opposing team, Breanna Stewart of Seattle, fared well in her first professional game.
And while the Storm, who happen to be a young team in the league, got a great showing from their two back-to-back number one picks in Stewart and Jewell Loyd. Between the two of them, they were the teams' leaders in all categories on the stat sheet -- but they didn't get a lot of help to curtail the storm that came from Parker and her teammates.
"(Parker) is one of the best players in the world for a reason," said Seattle coach Jenny Boucek. "She has been one of the best players in the world her whole life, and they have a lot of really good pieces around her -- they are loaded."
Last season Loyd was the Rookie of the Year and coming into this season, Stewart is favored to win it; her showing tonight has already begun to support the possibility of that happening.
Parker ended the first quarter with 10 points, two rebounds and Stewart finished with seven points, and three rebounds as Seattle trailed, 26-15.
Both Stewart and Parker would start the second quarter on the bench. Los Angeles and Seattle struggled with dribble penetration, giving up 10 and 18 points in the paint, respectively.
The Sparks switched up the tempo in hopes of pulling away even more from the Storm by switching screens and eventually hit the gas full throttle. With the change in pace, Los Angeles was able to let their defense lead to offense. On the night, the Sparks had 12 steals, led by Parker, who snatched away three from Seattle.
With three minutes left in the second quarter, Los Angeles took a commanding 45-25 lead. Seattle ended up going cold in the second quarter, and the Sparks finished the half with 30 points in the paint out of their 51.
The halftime score was 51-26 with all momentum on the Sparks side, whereas rookie Stewart only tallied two points in the quarter. On the other hand, Parker already had a game-high of 21 points with plenty of time left still in the game.
To open the third quarter, Nneka Ogwumike drained a three to push the lead even higher for the Sparks. Seattle would win the third quarter, however, by outscoring Los Angeles, 25-14. If you haven't guessed yet, it was Stewart's assertiveness in the second half that led to their best quarter, as she notched 13 points in the quarter alone.
Balanced scoring for the Sparks came from Kristi Toliver, Ogwumike, and Parker throughout the period being the only ones to add points onto the board.
Stewart and Loyd were the only Storm players to be in double figures by the end of the quarter. The two gave a great showing of a dynamic duo forming that could be the future of the Seattle Storm franchise. In fact, the two were able to cut the Sparks lead to just 14 points entering the final quarter.
Once again, Parker started another quarter on the bench in hopes her teammates could withstand or even grow the lead for Los Angeles. Stewart however, would stay on the floor and continue to be efficient.
As the game progressed, the Sparks were able to even out the points in the paint and match the Storm. Parker would eventually come back in and pick up right where she left off, dominating the game with her aggressive play. Almost immediately, Parker put up seven quick points, topped off by a traditional three-point play after being fouled by Stewart.
As expected, Parker filled the stat sheet for the Sparks leading them with 34 points, three steals, four assists, and five rebounds. Ogwumike would add 13 points, seven rebounds, and Toliver 14 points.
"I thought we played well, I thought we played with a tone of energy," said Sparks head coach Brian Agler. "I told them before the game you all wont play perfect today, its the first game, but you can play with perfect intensity and effort and perfect concentration and I thought we were pretty close to that."
Stewart was solid in her WNBA debut with 23 points, two steals, three assists and six rebounds. Her partner in crime, Loyd added 20 points, five assists, and three rebounds.
Los Angeles hits the road to take on the Washington Mystics on May 20th where Tip-off is set for 7 pm EST. For Seattle, they will have another road game, this time taking on the Phoenix Mercury on May 20th with a tip-off is set for 7 pm PST.