Short-handed Storm routed in opener against Sparks

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LOS ANGELES — The Seattle Storm’s season-opening outcome is fitting.

Beginning its first run since 2001 without either Lauren Jackson or Sue Bird, Seattle reverted back to a low it hadn’t seen since its inaugural season in 2000. The Storm lost, 102-69, to the Los Angeles Sparks, Seattle’s worst season-opening loss in franchise history.

“We self-destructed,” Storm guard Tanisha Wright said after a game where her team allowed the Sparks 26 assists on 36 made field goals. Los Angeles shot 62.1 percent overall.

“It’s a long season,” Wright said. “But we understand that in order for us to be successful, the (defensive) end of the floor has to come out.”

Seattle’s first-ever defeat was 77-47 to the now-defunct Houston Comets at KeyArena. That eventual 6-26 season led to a No. 1 overall pick in 2001, and the team drafted Jackson, a 6-foot-6 Australian center. Bird, a 5-foot-9 point guard, was the top overall pick the following year. The pair united to help Seattle advance to a WNBA-record nine consecutive playoff berths and two league championships.

But with the duo out recovering from offseason surgeries, the Storm has a clean slate, again. Leaders Wright and Camille Little are the only remaining players from the 2010 title team. Sunday in front of 10,090 at Staples Center, they lined up with three new starters and five new faces overall.

One starter was 17-year WNBA veteran Tina Thompson. She was a member of the Comets team that gave the Storm a crude introduction to the league in 2000. She winced at being reminded of the 30-point decision.

The Storm’s opener on Sunday wasn’t much better.

Seattle was outscored 31-12 in the third quarter. The league’s 2012 most improved player, guard Kristi Toliver scored nine of her game-high 17 points in the quarter. Six Los Angeles players finished with double-figure scoring.

The Storm was led by 13 points from Little.

“On the bright side, it’s just a loss, no matter if it was by two points or 50,” Thompson said. “The bad side of it is we got beat bad and it’s embarrassing. I don’t like being embarrassed.”

Jackson, the team’s all-time leading scorer (18.9 per game), is out following hamstring surgery. Bird has only missed 10 games since Storm coach Brian Agler was hired in 2008, but is out after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

Seattle opened the game shooting 52.7 percent, and trailed 28-20 after the first quarter. But L.A. started pulling away midway through the second quarter and used a 24-5 run to build a 77-46 lead after a jumper by Toliver midway through the third.

Seattle is 6-8 in its first road games of the year and suffered its sixth consecutive loss to the Sparks (1-0).

“It was just too easy for L.A.,” Agler said. “Way too easy.”

The Storm (0-1) will have a week to prepare for its home opener against Phoenix at KeyArena on June 2. But the defensive matchup problems continue in facing Brittney Griner, a 6-foot-8 rookie center, and explosive scorer Diana Taurasi.

“Defensively, we played for a quarter,” Little said. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to work on that all week.”

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