Watched first WNBA game of the season on Friday night. And it was a doozie.
Los Angeles Sparks came back from the dead on the road to beat Seattle and former Lynx coach Brian Agler. The Storm scored the game's first 11 points and were holding a comfortable 56-38 lead late in the third quarter when LA caught fire, going on a 12-0 run to close within two points.
Part of it was the Storm's horrible execution on offense -- 27 turnovers to LA's 14. Part of it was good by the Sparks and Kristi Toliver's hot shooting. Toliver, a guard who came off the bench, had 25 points. She had five three-pointers.
Wanted to throw something at TV a few times when Storm announcers kept raving about Sue Bird: best point guard in the league, nobody runs a fast break like her, etc., etc. There is a player from Hutchinson, Minn., who was as good as Bird last season in the WNBA and led her team to the league championship.
But I digress. Storm looked awful in the fourth quarter and got outscored 30-10 at home. No way Seattle should have lost this game. Rematch is Tuesday in LA.
Good crowd in Key Arena, almost 10,000. Nneka Ogwumike, first pick in WNBA draft last month, had nine points, three rebounds, three steals, one block for Sparks. Took only six shots in 18:17.
Shekinna Stricklen, the No. 2 pick in draft, came off the bench for LA, played 14:59 and was not much of a factor in the game: five points, three rebounds. She was two for two from the field.
Caught most of the NBA TV's WNBA preview show. Didn't realize it was on four times on Friday night until last show was over. Imagine someone could have watched it four times and had his or her own "Ground Hog Day" experience.
Some snipets from LaChina Robinson and Larry Smith:
On Phoenix: Lamented loss of forward Penny Taylor for season with knee injury (torn ACL). Taylor averaged 16.7 points, five rebounds and five assists last season. ... Called it a crushing blow, big loss to women's basketball. ... Said Taylor has high basketball IQ, lot of toughness. ... Was great 1-2 combo with Diana Taurasi.
On San Antonio: Guard Becky Hammon still team's star. ... Added Tangela Smith, a well-traveled post. Could help Silver Stars become better rebounding team. ... Jayne Appel still needs to prove herself inside.
On Tulsa: Shock won only three games last season. ... Under new coach, Gary Kloppenburg, who was an assistant at Indiana last four years. ...Will miss C Liz Cambage for first half of season; she is training with Aussies for London Olympics. ... Added a ton of energetic players, including rookies Glory Johnson and Riquna Williams.
Atlanta: Dream has lost in WNBA Finals last two years, falling to Seattle and the Lynx. ... Angel McCoughtry is team's leader and, as Lynx found out in playoffs, can be almost unstoppable at times. ... Atlanta was last in league in three-point shooting last year, at 26 percent, but added Laurie Koehn and Cathrine Kraayeveld. ... Will miss C Erika de Souza for first half of season; she is training with Brazil for Olympics. She averaged 12 points and eight rebounds last season. She is a physical presence, too.
New York: Liberty homeless again this summer. Madison Square Garden is being renovated, so they are playing in Newark, N.J., for second season. ... Cappie Pondexter is one of toughest guards in league. ... Will miss C Quanitra Hollingsworth, ex-Lynx, for first half of season. Q became Turkish citizen and is trying to lead Turks to their first Olympics. ... Kia Vaughn has to keep improving in post.
Connecticut: Sun were poor 6-11 on road last season, have to improve on that. ... C Tina Charles has to help her team finish better. ... F Asjha Jones, bothered by Achilles problems last few season, appears healthy. She was EuroLeague's Final Eight MVP.
Indiana: F Tamika Catching is the key player for Fever. She got hurt in Eastern Conference Finals last year and Indiana fell to Atlanta. She was league MVP last season. ... Added depth in post. ... G Briann January back after knee surgery. ... Lost Kloppenburg as assistant.
Chicago: Has missed playoffs five years in a row. ... One of best defensive teams in league with C Sylvia Fowles in the middle. ... Added key veterans like Swin Cash, Ruth Riley, Ticha Penicheiro. ... G Epiphanny Prince could have big year, too.
Washington: Mystics made total overhaul, with nine new players. ... Coach Trudi Lacey added Ashley Robinson and Michelle Snow at C. ... Won't be easy to score inside against Mystics. ... Build team chemistry with Navy Seals training in the preseason. ... Monique Curry and Matee Ajavon both talented and should have strong years.
USA coach Geno Auriemma: Basketball is a game of mistakes and the team that fixes it mistakes quicker and better usually wins.
Ex-Lynx coach Jennifer Gillom is one of Geno's assistants.
Geno saide this is most pressure-packed situation he has ever been in, but at the same time he likes it: "Pressure brings out the best in people."
"This has the chance to be one of the best teams USA basketball has ever put on the floor, ever," Geno said.
Said NBA TV's Robinson: "I don't think they could have picked a better person to lead Team USA to gold."
Robinson: "I think Minnesota will repeat as the champs. I have Indiana, behind Tamika Catchings, who I also have as my MVP, winning the East."
She said her surprise teams are Seattle, Chicago, adding that the Storm will be better than people expect and the Sky will make the playoffs.