Sparks defeat Storm, 80-69, in season opener

Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike knocks the ball away from Storm guard Jenna O'Hea in the first half Friday.
(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

For a time, Candace Parker didn’t know if the Sparks would even be around for the 2014 WNBA season.

They still are, and so is she. Parker scored 18 points, Alana Beard added 17, and the Sparks, whose future was uncertain in January after the previous owners suddenly relinquished the franchise, opened the WNBA season on Friday night with an 80-69 win over the Seattle Storm.

Parker also grabbed six rebounds for the Sparks, who were purchased on Feb. 5 by a group led by former NBA star Magic Johnson and Dodgers controlling owner Mark R. Walter.

“This win is sweeter — we all realized what could have been,” Parker said of the anxious weeks she and her teammates went through right after the holidays. “Sometimes, you have to have something almost taken away to be appreciative of it.”


Also in double figures for the Sparks were Kristi Tolliver, who had 13 points, and Jantel Lavender, who had 10 points. The Sparks, who had promised an intensified defense, had 13 steals and forced 19 turnovers.

Jenna O’Hea, who played for the Sparks last season, came off the bench to lead the Storm with 12 points.

Sue Bird, making her return to the Storm after missing the 2013 season because of a cyst she had removed from her left knee, had seven points and four assists in 24 minutes. Bird came out with 2 minutes 27 seconds left in the third quarter and did not play in the fourth.

The Sparks went on a 17-3 run bridging the first and second quarters on the way to a 43-32 halftime lead. The Storm never got closer than eight during the second half.