Storm show off championship pedigree in WNBA finals rematch win over Aces
Candace Parker leads hometown Sky to easy victory over Mystics
An offseason roster makeover left the Seattle Storm with questions beginning their title defence.
They still have Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd to rely on as answers to any of those concerns.
"We still have Stewie and Jewell," Seattle's Sue Bird said. "I know we lost a lot in free agency and I love every single one of those players. But it was as though people forgot we had Stewie and Jewell. Today was an example of that. We've got the hard part. We've got the franchise players."
Stewart had 28 points and 13 rebounds, Jewell Loyd added 22 points and the Storm opened defence of their WNBA title with a 97-83 victory over the Las Vegas Aces on Saturday.
The rematch of last year's WNBA Finals in the Florida bubble was a celebration for the Storm complete with a ring ceremony and championship banner unveiling as Seattle began its attempt to become the first team to repeat as WNBA champs since Los Angeles in 2001 and 2002.
Even with an overhauled roster, Seattle looked the part of a championship contender in the opener. Seattle trailed by as many as nine in the opening quarter, but outscored Las Vegas 45-31 in the middle two quarters to take control.
"For our first game when we didn't really know what to expect, super proud of the way everybody came out and really we just competed," Stewart said.
A'ja Wilson, last year's league MVP, led Las Vegas with 24 points and Liz Cambage added 16 in her return to the WNBA after sitting out last season.
Bird jogs off scare
The Aces reached last year's finals on the strength Wilson's season. But the return of Cambage is a big reason why Las Vegas was the preseason favorite in poll of league general manager and held the No. 1 spot in the first AP WNBA power poll.
Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer cautioned it may be a bumpy start to the season for the Aces.
"We knew going into this thing that the first eight, 10 games, especially those first six games here, is going to be very difficult for us, and we can't get frustrated," Laimbeer said.
Seattle received a scare when Bird limped off the court favouring her left leg with 6 1/2 minutes left after a collision with Cambage. Bird immediately jogged into the tunnel underneath the stands and could be seen testing out the leg.
Bird returned to the Seattle bench several minutes later and re-entered with 4:19 left. She added her third 3-pointer with 1:24 left to give Seattle a 15-point lead. Bird said she was hit on her left knee that was surgically repaired in 2019 and caused her to miss the entire season.
"When they came up to me and say Sue's OK, ready to go in, you know the blood pressure goes down about three steps," Seattle coach Dan Hughes said.
Bird finished with 11 points and eight assists beginning her 18th
Sky breeze past Mystics
Kahleah Copper scored 19 points and Candace Parker added 16 with eight rebounds and three blocks in her Chicago debut and the Sky beat Washington 70-56 in a WNBA opener for both teams Saturday.
After spending 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, Parker, a Naperville, Illinois native, joined the Sky in free agency in the offseason.
Parker scored Chicago's first points of the game with a layup and followed with a 3-pointer before Copper buried a 3 and added a layup for a 12-6 lead and the Sky led for most of the remainder.
Stefanie Dolson, Copper and Parker each sank a pair of free throws, Copper hit a jumper and Parker a 3 and the Sky's 11-0 run made it 40-25 with 3:56 before halftime.
All the buckets, boards, blocks and beyond from <a href="https://twitter.com/Candace_Parker?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Candace_Parker</a>'s first game in a Sky uniform 🤩<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CountIt?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CountIt</a> <a href="https://t.co/I1gHupgWZQ">pic.twitter.com/I1gHupgWZQ</a>—@WNBA
The Mystics never got within double digits in the second half.
Tina Charles scored 14 points for Washington.