Breanna Stewart recorded 28 points and 13 rebounds and Jewell Loyd added 22 points as the defending champion Seattle Storm began the 2021 season with a 97-83 victory over the visiting Las Vegas Aces on Saturday afternoon.
Storm players and coaches who were the team last season when they won the WNBA title received their championship rings before the game.
Sue Bird, now 40 years old, began her 18th season in the WNBA with 11 points and eight rebounds. She made an insurance 3-pointer late in the game to help the Storm defeat the same Las Vegas team they swept in the 2020 WNBA Finals.
Bird gave spectators a bit of scare in the fourth quarter after going to the court while being screened. She returned to action a few minutes after being treated in the training room.
A'ja Wilson collected 24 points, five rebounds and four assists for Las Vegas. Liz Cambage added 16 points, Jackie Young had 12 and Kelsey Plum chipped in 11 off the bench for the Aces.
The two teams will meet again Tuesday night in Seattle.
Wilson hit a jumper to give the Aces their biggest lead early on at 17-8.
Bird quickly answered with a pull-up jumper, and the Storm were ahead one by the end of the fist quarter at 27-26 after a last-second bank shot by Jordin Canada.
Seattle then went up by as many as 14 in the second quarter.
The Storm scored the first nine points of the second half for a 59-40 lead. Loyd opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer followed by a Stewart bucket, an Ezi Magbegor drive and another Stewart shot.
Veteran Candice Dupree also played well for Seattle with 12 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots.
Meanwhile, Candace Parker recorded 13 of her 16 points in the first half of her Chicago debut, and Kahleah Copper scored a game-high 19 as the visiting Sky posted a 70-56 win over the Washington Mystics on Saturday.
Parker spent her first 13 seasons with Los Angeles, but grew up in suburban Chicago. She went 3-of-4 from 3-point range, added eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
Copper scored all but four of her points in the first half for Chicago, which used a key 11-0 second-quarter run to take control of the contest.
Tina Charles, whose Mystics debut was delayed after she opted out of the 2020 season, had a team-high 14 points. However, fellow star Elena Delle Donne (back) was not yet ready to play after also sitting out in 2020.
Washington shot just 25.0 percent from the floor, including a dismal 13.3 percent (4 of 30) of 3-point range.
Thanks to five straight points from Copper, Chicago used a 10-0 run to open a 12-6 lead. Charles, though, scored four of six consecutive points for Washington, which regained the lead at 16-14. The Sky, however, scored the final five points of the first quarter to go up 22-19.
Chicago led 29-25 when Copper and Parker combined for nine points during a run of 11 straight that put the visitors up 40-25. The Sky, who led by as many as 18 over the first two quarters and 46-30 at the break, held the Mystics to 9-of-36 shooting during the opening half.
Washington scored the first six points of the second half to get within 10, then went scoreless for nearly four minutes. The Mystics got within 11 later in the third quarter before Courtney Vandersloot and Diamond DeShields hit back-to-back 3s to give the Sky a 57-40 lead heading into the fourth.
Allie Quigley and Stefanie Dolson scored the first four points of the fourth to extend the advantage for the Sky. Chicago shot just 36.7 percent from the field, but went 8-of-17 from distance and 18-of-21 from the free-throw line.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: