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Buoyed by return of stars, Storm pull away from Sabrina Ionescu and Liberty for season-opening win

Percy Allen, The Seattle Times on

Published in Basketball

After a 10-week delayed start to the season and an abbreviated training camp due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Storm were predictably sluggish and out-of-sync at times in Saturday's opener against the New York Liberty.

However, WNBA All-Stars Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird carried Seattle early on until its superior depth pulled away late for a comfortable 87-71 victory at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Stewart, who sat out last season due to an Achilles injury, finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and a career-high four steals in her first WNBA game in nearly two years.

Aside from five turnovers, the 2018 WNBA MVP looked as if she's ready to reclaim her title as the league's top player while connecting on 6 of 12 field goals, including two 3-pointers in 28 minutes.

"She was aggressive at both ends of the floor," Storm coach Gary Kloppenburg said. "She changed some shots. I thought she looked really good for not having played in quite awhile.

"Just excellent job by her in scrambling and hustling and getting on the floor for loose balls. I was really happy for her to get back into the flow."

 

Loyd, who sat out most of the third quarter with an apparent back injury, poured in 14 points while Bird finished with 11 points and five assists, and Jordin Canada added 10 points.

Bird, Canada and defensive stalwart Natasha Howard combined to hold touted Liberty rookie Sabrina Ionescu to a relatively quiet 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and four turnovers in her 34-minute WNBA debut.

If not for veteran guard Layshia Clarendon, who scored 20 points in her first game with New York, the Storm would have had a much easier time with a scrappy Liberty team that consists of seven rookies and first-year head coach Walt Hopkins.

The Storm controlled the first quarter and led 24-16 at the end of the period, but New York went on a 13-0 run and took a 25-24 lead early in the second.

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