The Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury tip-off their WNBA regular season on June 4, 2011. (Kailas Images)

Seattle Storm Open 2011 WNBA Season With Win Over The Phoenix Mercury

The Seattle Storm open their 2011 WNBA season by hosting Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury for a 2010 Western Conference Finals rematch at KeyArena in a highly-anticipated nationally televised game (Noon PST, ABC). For more on what to expect from the Storm this season, visit our pre-season storystream. Check out SBN's women's basketball site Swish Appeal for a game thread and some background on the Phoenix Mercury.

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Seattle Storm Win WNBA Season Opener Against Phoenix Mercury, 78-71

The Seattle Storm's 78-71 win over the Phoenix Mercury didn't have nearly the flair of last night's matchup featuring Candace Parker and Maya Moore.

Both teams came out rough and there's little doubt that should they face each other late in the playoffs again - as many might expect - they'll both be better, have their full systems in place, and have more rhythm.

"I still think that we have a lot of stuff to learn and we will," said Storm forward Lauren Jackson, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds.

But as two of the top contenders in the Western Conference, you can bet that the Storm will gladly take a 1-0 series lead.

After the Storm got up by as many as 19 points, the Mercury rallied late by showing better execution and tougher defense overall to make the final score look perhaps a bit closer than the game really was.

So although the Storm simply outworked and outplayed the Mercury for the majority of this game, they weren't able to finish the game as strong as they would like to.

"We didn't address that after the game - I wanted them to enjoy today - but we didn't finish this game off," said Storm coach Brian Agler, whose team allowed the Mercury to shoot 60% in the fourth quarter. "We're better than that. We have the ability to finish off games and it's just a matter of communicating and understanding what we want to get accomplished. But give credit to Phoenix - they've got great players."

Diana Taurasi was as-advertised finishing with a game-high 31 points on 11-for-20 shooting. However, despite word of a stronger post game for the Mercury, the Storm punished them inside for the majority of the game winning the points in the paint battle 45-32.

Camille Little led the effort inside with 18 points and nine rebounds while Lauren Jackson followed with 15 points and seven rebounds. Little left the game late with a sprained knee, according to Agler, and is currently considered day-to-day. But her defensive and offensive effort was critical to the win.

"She is a great complement to Lauren and she can really be a versatile defender when we play against Phoenix, who has players like Taurasi," said Agler. "So when we get in a pick and roll, she can stay with those people."

Storm point guard Sue Bird also had a quietly strong performance, recording her 19th career double-double with 13 points and 10 assists. But ultimately what mattered more than individual performances on the day was the fact that they emerged from their nationally televised season opener victorious.

"For me personally, the last 10 years have been truly enjoyable," Bird said after the game when asked about the pre-game ceremony. "We could have more rings, but two is pretty good. Hopefully, we can get that third one this year."


Storm Vs. Mercury Halftime Score: Katie Smith Helps Storm To 40-35 Lead

Ever since the Seattle Storm traded to acquire Katie Smith this off-season, there have been questions about whether she was too battered, old, or accustomed to starting to be effective.

She has maintained that she is willing to take on whatever role the team needs and in the second quarter she gave Storm fans a nice glimpse into what she offers as the Storm mounted a 40-35 lead while shooting 48.3 percent from the field.

Smith gave the Storm a scorer off the bench that could work off the ball to find gaps in the zone or float to open spots for shots without dominating the ball. In a game such as this with plenty of first game jitters to shake off for both teams, Smith's poise and presence of mind on the court was a huge boost in the second quarter as the Storm began to gain some separation. She gives the team another veteran ball handler next to Bird to help run the offense.

Smith added another three from the wing and a jumper in the second quarter to finish the half with eight points on 3-for-6 shooting and three rebounds. Camille Little scored six of her 10 points in the second quarter.

For the Mercury, this game is moving at the pace they typically like, but the Storm are finishing the fast breaks better with a 9 to 6 fast break points advantage. Diana Taurasi leads all scorers with 14 points and Penny Taylor ended the half with nine.

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