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Storm cruise past Liberty in WNBA opener

Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, who both missed the 2019 WNBA season due to injuries, started their comebacks on Saturday in leading the Seattle Storm to an 87-71 victory at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

This was the first game of the 2020 season. Prior to the game, both teams walked off the court during the national anthem as part of a protest to demand social change.

The game also marked the WNBA debut of Liberty point guard Sabrina Ionescu, the league’s No. 1 draft pick in April. Ionescu, who had 26 triple-doubles at the University of Oregon, had 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Layshia Clarendon led New York with 20 points, including 13 in the first half.

This was the first time the Storm reunited the starting five that they used to win the 2018 WNBA title.

Stewart, who was the MVP of the 2018 regular season and the league finals, had 18 points and eight rebounds.

Bird, a 16-year WNBA veteran and an 11-time All-Star, posted 11 points and five assists. She often matched up with Ionescu, who is 17 years her junior.

Seattle’s Jewell Lloyd, an All-Star the past two years, had 14 points. Natasha Howard, the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, had six points and seven rebounds but was badly beaten by Ionescu on a cross-court dribble and layup.

The Liberty, who feature seven rookies (to just one for Seattle), also saw Walt Hopkins make his debut as New York’s coach.

However, the Liberty lost guard Kia Nurse to a second-quarter ankle sprain. The 2019 All-Star did not return and finished with two points.

Seattle led by as many as 12 points in the first half, but New York went up by two with a 13-0 run. By halftime, Seattle had surged back on top 42-35.

Seattle stretched its lead to 66-57 after three quarters.

For the game, Seattle shot 44.2 percent. New York shot 34.8 percent.

–Field Level Media

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