Howard lifts Storm to win over Mercury
EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — Natasha Howard had 21 points and 16 rebounds, Jewell Loyd added 17 points and the Seattle Storm opened defensive of their WNBA title with a 77-68 win over the Phoenix Mercury on Saturday.
Beginning a season where they will play without reigning league MVP Breanna Stewart for the entire season and 11-time All-Star Sue Bird for a significant portion, the Storm rallied from an 11-point first half deficit to make sure celebrating last year’s title was capped with a victory.
With Bird sitting on the bench and Stewart a few feet away in a protective boot, Seattle’s two biggest stars were forced to be spectators and watched their teammates outscore Phoenix 40-25 in the middle two quarters and hold off the best efforts of DeWanna Bonner to rally the Mercury. Bonner scored 15 straight points for Phoenix late in the third quarter and early in the fourth to pull the Mercury within 58-57. That’s as close as they would get as Seattle outscored Phoenix 19-11 over the final seven minutes.
Bonner finished with 31 points, as the Mercury started a season where they will be without Diana Tarausi for a significant chunk after undergoing back surgery in late April.
SUN 84, MYSTICS 69
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Alyssa Thomas scored 23 points, Jonquel Jones had 10 points and 14 rebounds and the Sun beat the short-handed Mystics.
Washington was missing Elena Delle Donne, who sat out the opener with left knee soreness.
Even without their star, the Mystics kept it close until Connecticut went on a 13-2 run in the middle of the third quarter to take control. Jasmine Thomas hit a jumper to make it 48-45 at the 7:34 mark. That started the game-changing run.
The Suns led 67-53 after three quarters and by double figures throughout the fourth quarter.
Emma Meesseman, who has returned to the Mystics after playing in Belgium last season, scored 14 points.
LYNX 89, SKY 71
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Napheesa Collier scored 27 points, the second most in WNBA history by a rookie in her debut, and the new-look Lynx pulled away from the Sky in the second half.
Collier, who was the sixth pick in the draft this year, was short of Candace Parker’s record 34-point effort in her first game with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2008. The Lynx hardly missed perennial MVP Maya Moore, who is sitting out this season, as Collier hit 8 of her 10 shots, including three 3-pointers. Minnesota is also adjusting to the retirement of long-time guard Lindsay Whalen, who will have her number retired later this season.
Collier overshadowed her former UConn teammates Katie Lou Samuelson, the fourth overall pick in the draft. Samuelson made her only shot and both her free throws to score four points off the bench for Chicago.
Gabby Williams and Kahleah Cooper had 11 points apiece for the Sky, who trailed 46-40 at the half but were outscored 24-10 in the third quarter.