Storm loses its season opener in Los Angeles

With Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird missing from the lineup, the Storm lost their season opener to the Los Angeles Sparks 78-68 Saturday at the Staples Center.

LOS ANGELES — In beginning the season against the defending WNBA champions, the Storm demonstrated the ability to withstand the loss of two of its best players.

The Los Angeles Sparks needed a 7-0 spurt late in Saturday’s game to dispatch the Storm 78-68 in front of an announced crowd of 10,603 that included Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson at Staples Center.

Jewell Loyd scored a game-high 25 points, 18 in the first half. Ramu Tokashiki added 14 points and Crystal Langhorne contributed 13 points and a team-best six rebounds for Seattle.

Neither Breanna Stewart nor Sue Bird received clearance to play Saturday, and officially remain day to day as the Storm prepares for Sunday’s home opener against the Indiana Pacers. Both are recovering from knee injuries.

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“Of course, we miss them a lot,” Loyd said. “But we definitely competed throughout the whole game. The best thing about our team is that everyone can bring up the ball, pass and screen. We’re very versatile.”

Stewart, the WNBA’s rookie of the year last season, sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in January while playing in China, and Bird is recovering from arthroscopic surgery on her left knee. Stewart dressed and sat on the bench while Bird remained in Seattle.

“We’ve got to reassess (Sunday),” Storm coach Jenny Boucek said. “We probably could’ve pushed them, but it wouldn’t have been smart. They want to play but they weren’t quite ready and we’re not going to put them in jeopardy. They’re too important to our franchise.”

Stewart expressed more emphatic optimism.

“I’m planning on playing tomorrow,” she said. “It’s just hard with a back-to-back. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be saying…

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