Happy Blue Friday, 12s! Yes, I will continue to call us “The 12s” even though “Primetime” doesn’t think it matters a whole lot. Well, Centurylink averages nearly three false starts per game and crowd noise is a key factor. Anyhow, the Seahawks are set to play in front of their home crowd against the Arizona Cardinals this weekend. Arizona has always been a thorn in Seattle’s side, historically, but I believe the Seahawks have the edge in this game. As always, I dig into the basic statistics for both sides and attempt to analyze and predict what could happen. In my preview from last week, I was dialed in with my projections if you want to take a look by clicking here. If you’re like me and just want the bottom line up front, here it is: I predicted that Chris Carson would have a massive game rushing, that Tyler Lockett would find his groove once again, Seattle defense would pick the ball off, and that Christian McCaffrey would be limited to less than 100 yards on the ground, but thrive as a receiver. All came to fruition. I also predicted the Seattle defense would score six points, and that happened. However, it was reviewed and reversed to negate the play. This week, the Seahawks are taking on a reeling Arizona team who is trying to find their identity. The Cardinals are among the worst defensive teams in the league and the Kyler Murray led offense is not all that stellar either. I’m terrible at fantasy football and projections, but if you’re in your finals, I would recommend starting Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, and Chris Carson—all three are statistically likely to have a massive game. Let’s dig in and take a look at the chart below, noting the previous week differences: The Cardinals are good at one thing: holding on to the football. They lead the NFL by only coughing up the ball 6 times. I talk more on this down below under the passing category. The Cardinals rank in the bottom 10 in terms of total yards, first downs, and third-down conversions. The Seahawks, however, are extremely generous to opposing teams with total yards per game (YPG)—but not as generous as the Cardinals who rank dead last giving up 413.1 YPG. The Cardinals also give opposing offenses the most first downs per game and the second-highest third-down conversion rate where the Seahawks rank pretty high offensively in those categories. As always, the Seahawks have had issues fumbling the football, which needs to continue to tighten up as they work their way into the postseason. I have discovered some interesting numbers regarding points per quarter. Here is a little spreadsheet detailing how both teams defenses fare. Included are the home statistics for the Seahawks and away statistics for the Cardinals since the game is in Seattle: This is a concerning graphic if you are going to solely focus on the numbers. Cardinals are averaging 24 points on the road this season. The Seahawks have allowed an average of 29.4 points to visitors. Conversely, the Seahawks average 27.5 points per home game this season whereas the Cardinals give up 27.3 points per game while visiting. At home, the Seahawks tend to come alive in the fourth quarter, thanks to Russell Wilson and his determination to come from behind and secure a victory. This comes as good news since the Cardinals defense gives up an average of 11.7 points in the fourth quarter while on the road. The Seahawks tend to be giving in the second quarter at home relinquishing 10.2 points on average. The Cardinals, on the other hand, tend to struggle in the second quarter so that average might go down after this weekend. Digging Deeper As you can see, the Seahawks score more in the second and fourth quarters. In fact, they have always scored in the fourth quarter of every game this season. The reason the trend line goes down is because of how often they have scored in those quarters. Look at the third quarter. The trend is moving upwards because they have been blanked six times in the third quarter this season. Naturally, the trend will rise since anything is higher than zero. In Week 4, against the Cardinals, the Seahawks’ scoring by quarter went 10, 10, 0, and 7. One thing the defensive plot graph pointed out was that the Seahawks have yet to surrender more than 14 points in any quarter this season. For a defense that is banged up and statistically ranked low, that seems impressive. Scoring in every quarter is decreasing since the beginning of the season up to last week. Quarters two and four seem to be the thorn in the defense’s side. Fatigue could likely be a factor since these are the later minutes of each half. Additionally, in nine games this season, the Seahawks have not allowed opposing teams into the end zone in the third quarter, and seven of those nine games did not allow a single score. As for this match-up, both teams defensively have a better third quarter than the rest of the game. This is likely due to coin toss deferments where the offense is on the field. Rushing: Offense and Defense Offense: The Seahawks, to no surprise, run the ball more often than not. I don’t expect this to change. Chris Carson averages nearly 20 touches and 4.4 yards per game. He’s tallied 1,190 yards and averages 85 YPG. He has 7 rushing touchdowns to his name. He has six games over the century mark and has at least 50 YPG 12 times this season. He’s fumbled seven times, losing four—which is likely why he did not get the Pro Bowl nod. This season, Seattle has rushed the ball on 47% of their plays while rushing 53% of the time last week. At home, the Seahawks rush the ball 45.8% of the time. Therefore, I expect another heavy workload for Carson against a Cardinals defense who gives up 122.7 YPG to opposing teams on the ground. The Seahawks average one rushing touchdown per game and tend to find the end zone less at home averaging 0.8 touchdowns per game at home this season. However, in their last three games, they have found the end zone at least once and twice last week against a porous Carolina defense. Here are the rushing trends for the Seahawks: The graphic above shows that the Seahawks are gaining more and more rushing yards per game. Per the trend line, the Seahawks are expected to get around 125 yards on the ground, barring any outliers. The Seahawks have also rushed for 100+ yards in every game this season except Week 1. For the Cardinals, newcomer Kenyan Drake is coming off a 137 campaign against the Browns where he scored four touchdowns. On the season, he has rushed for 591 yards and has tallied five touchdowns. Obviously, most of his numbers come from just a week ago. Whether at home or on the road, the Cardinals rush the ball roughly 39% of the time. However, they found success in the running game against Cleveland a week ago, rushing nearly 60% of the time. I do want to note that Cleveland is the sixth-worst rushing defense in the league. I don’t expect the Cardinals to put up the same number against the Seahawks. Lastly, the Cardinals average 1.1 rushing touchdowns per game this season, while finding the end zone slightly more on the road at 1.2 per game. Defense: Opponents’ rushing trends against the Seahawks are moving upwards. With the nagging injuries to Jadeveon Clowney, Ziggy Ansah, and Al Woods, this trend is going to likely continue going up until all three are healthy and on the field at the same time. Additionally, Bobby Wagner, the leading tackler for the Seahawks, tweaked his ankle against the Panthers. The Seahawks did sign veteran linebacker Dekoda Watson due to these injuries. I’m willing to bet the Cardinals are going to do a whole lot of running. In Week 4, the Seahawks allowed the Cardinals to rush for 115 yards. I imagine the Cardinals will be on target to do the same this weekend, considering the injuries sustained on the Seahawks defense. For the Cardinals, I don’t expect them to hold the Seahawks to under the century mark. They are allowing an average of 122.7 rushing yards and 27.6 attempts per game. As I mentioned, the Seahawks rushed for 115 in Week 4 so they, too, should be on target to meet or exceed that previous mark. Passing: Offense and Defense Offense: Despite rushing the ball as much as they do, the Seahawks rank tenth overall in the NFL in the passing category. However, Russell Wilson is one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL. In fact, he is one sack shy of being the most sacked QB in franchise history. He is currently tied with David Krieg with 341 sacks. Krieg played 12 seasons in Seattle to amass the sacks where Russell is in his eighth. Russell has only four games this season under the 200 yards benchmark. Additionally, the Cardinals rank dead last in the NFL in passing YPG allowance at 290.4 yards per game. Quarterbacks facing the Cardinals also tend to have the highest completion percentage of 71.6%, also ranking the Cardinals’ defense dead last in the league. As you can see, Russ threw for over 200 yards in Week 4 and will likely do the same this week against an atrocious Cardinals secondary. The passing YPG is on the downslope but that is likely due to the two anomalies where Wilson threw for 400+ yards in Week 3 and nearly 350 yards in Week 9. Unfortunately, Russell Wilson will be without Josh Gordon, who was suspended indefinitely for illegal substance violations. I truly enjoyed watching him play, as limited as it was. Let’s relive that catch from last week: For the Cardinals, they are averaging 214 YPG which is among the worst in the league. Believe it or not, Murray has been sacked five more than Wilson this year. The Cardinals are a heavy throwing offense averaging 38.2 pass attempts per game but that comes at a cost of interceptions (13 for the Cardinals) where the Seahawks’ defense is third in the league with 16 picks. Defense: Quarterbacks usually lead the way on every team in terms of fumbling the football. Kyler Murray has been sacked a massive 46 for a loss of 305 yards times this season but has only fumbled the football four times. While the defensive front is banged up for Seattle, even if they get to Murray, I don’t expect a whole lot of turnovers. For the Seahawks’ defense, they have had issues. However, those numbers went down after Week 9 where opposing quarterbacks have been limited to under 300 passing YPG. In Week 4, Murray threw for a shade over 200 yards, is considered stellar for the Seahawks’ secondary. As I mentioned, the Seahawks statistically have a mediocre defense, but they have never allowed an opponent to score more than two touchdowns in any quarter this season. Therefore, I consider that to be successful. Injury Report As of Thursday, non-participants include S Quandre Diggs, T Duane Brown, LB Bobby Wagner, DE Jadeveon Clowney, CB Shaquill Griffin, DT Al Woods, and LB Mychal Kendricks. Limited participants include C Joey Hunt, G Mike Iupati, TE Luke Willson, WR Tyler Lockett. Full participants include DE Ziggy Ansah, T George Fant, LB Cody Barton. Kendricks, Griffin, and Clowney are game-time decisions, where Ansah and Willson are expected to play. Up-to-date injury coverage will be provided when it becomes available. Make sure you follow us on Twitter @CascadiaSN to see those updates. Bottom Line I’m expecting a high scoring shootout type of a game. Depending on which defensive players are available for the Seahawks, there could be some disruption upfront and Kyler Murray will end up making mistakes. The Seahawks have been picking the ball off lately so I expect that trend to continue. I am expecting a run-heavy game for both teams. If Seattle’s middle defensive starters are out, Arizona will have a lot of success on the ground. However, I think Russell Wilson will decide to air out the football a little more than usual considering the poor pass coverage of Arizona. Based on my numbers above, I’m expecting a 28-24 score favoring the Seahawks. Carson will get at least 100 yards on the ground and Russell should surpass 250 yards in the air. I think the secondary, even without Diggs, will come away with at least one interception, but I would guess two. The Cardinals don’t fumble often so I figure INTs is the only way Seattle will force turnovers. Thank you for taking the time to read this. It took a while to put it all together to get a better understanding of what to expect. Your feedback is always appreciated and I look forward to putting up the final piece of the regular season next week. Give me a follow on Twitter @BaseballDudeMan! Go Hawks!
The Portland Timbers (11-4D-11, 37 pts, 8th in West) and Real Salt Lake (13-4D-10, 43 pts, 2nd in West) will meet in a classic late-season Saturday night showdown at Providence Park. Match Info Time: Saturday, August 31st @ 7:30pm PT Location: Providence Park, Portland, OR TV: FOX 12 Plus (channel 49) As you probably know, this match has huge implications beyond simply extending a mini unbeaten streak or avenging the legendary 2013 squad. A quick look at the Western Conference standings reveal 8th place Portland trails 2nd place RSL by only six points. I feel like a broken record when I mention Portland’s game in hand, but it only means something if they can capitalize on it. Two straight home defeats on national television and an injuries to both starting center backs didn’t do much to help that cause. Standings provided by Sofascore LiveScore sofa_embed(‘sofa-standings-embed-18-20108’, window); A couple weeks ago, I looked at FiveThirtyEight’s MLS predictions for the Timbers, which gave them a 90% chance to make the playoffs. While that number is down, 83% is still a pretty good shot. The bigger question lies in what position the Timbers will finish. An expanded playoff format guarantees home field advantage for the top four teams in each conference, but Portland still has work to do: Timbers final position in Western Conference standings FiveThirtyEight Probability (%) 2nd* 13% 3rd* 16% 4th* 15% 5th** 14% 6th** 12% 7th** 12% 8th or less (missing playoffs) 18% *=home playoff match guaranteed **=away match in 1st round This only adds to the stress of the match for the Timbers, who already need this win badly. On the Iron Front front As you also probably know, there has been a much bigger issue raging in the background of these last few matches: while the Iron Front ban protest was certainly noticed, neither the league nor the Timbers Army seem keen to give up their side. Owner Merritt Paulson mildly evaded a question about fan safety to re-hash the issue of the flag’s political nature during a Portland Thorns Q&A, while the TA has stated they are in “ongoing talks” with the Timbers front office. This writer stands with the Timbers Army and hopes that the ban is rescinded soon. Other Noteworthy Matches Before we get to the match at hand, there are a couple of other critical matches you might want to be aware of before the Timbers kick off at 7:30. If college football isn’t your thing (and you have ESPN+), definitely check out these first two: Cincinnati @ Dallas, 4:00 PT FC Dallas is currently sitting on 40 points (three ahead of the Timbers), but they have also played two more matches. This should be an easy win for Dallas at home against the worst team in MLS, but we’ve seen crazier things happen in MLS. Root for Cincy! Houston @ Kansas City, 4:30 PT Don’t look now, but if Portland slips up in the remaining matches, these two sides will be nipping at their heels, especially Kansas City. SKC is within three points of the Timbers, and although Portland does have a game in hand, two remaining meetings with KC could make the playoff race trickier than expected. Root for a draw or Houston win! Orlando City @ San Jose, 7:30 PT This match will start at the same time as Portland’s, but keep an eye on San Jose, who are one of the teams Portland are chasing in the Western Conference standings. Root for Orlando! LA Galaxy @ Seattle, 2:30 PT Sunday Take a look at this matchup if you find time Sunday. The performances of both these teams will be critical to Portland’s playoff position. Root for a draw, although seeing either of these teams lose will surely bring a wry smile. Match Primer Ok, onto the match itself. In order to win this match, Portland will need to stop Albert Rusnák. The Slovak #11 pulls the strings for RSL’s attack, and if RSL sits deep to absorb pressure (more on that later), his creativity is deadly on the counter-attack. Luckily, the Timbers have Diego Chará, who is more than capable. Who they won’t have, though, is Larrys Mabiala and Julio Cascante. During the bulk of the regular season, this duo was the preferred starting center back pairing for head coach Giovanni Savarese—although I still prefer Tuiloma over Cascante when both are healthy. Replacement Claude Dielna has had his fair share of mistakes, but he has also had some solid matches, most notably against NYCFC, Orlando City, and Colorado. It should be noted that Dielna’s weakness, though, is his lack of pace. This was exploited quite easily by Mason Toye and Minnesota United earlier this month. If RSL does end up finding space on the counter, things will be a lot more nervy for Portland’s back line. Lineups What curveball will Gio throw us this week? Last week we had Marvin Loría starting over Jeremy Ebobisse and Zarek Valentin getting the nod over an injured Jorge Moreira. Now, Valentin is questionable with a hamstring injury and the Timbers find themselves with four healthy players on the back line (at least it makes my prediction easier). In the midfield, Cristhian Paredes should get the start next to Chará, but there have been rumblings of a leg injury that would undoubtedly see Renzo Zambrano get the start. In the attack, there have been some proponents of seeing Brian Fernández play out on the wing, but these pipe dreams were mostly dismissed by Gio’s comments in training. With rest no longer a factor (for now), I expect the lineup to look like this: Keys Scoring against a low block: It’s no secret that Portland has had their fair share of trouble against defenses that stay compact and look to counter-attack. It’s how the Timbers made it to MLS Cup last year, and it’s how teams have been grabbing points from them this year. Hopefully getting Moreira back will help attack wide areas and exploit a back line that has given up only 34 goals this season. Scoring the first goal: I know, duh. You want your team to score all the goals, not just the first one. But conceding the first goal buried the Timbers in their last two losses. I guess this key should read: Score before the other team, or if you don’t, don’t let yourself keep playing poorly. Keeping things tidy on the back line: The last (and only) time Dielna and Tuiloma started together, it was part of a 5-man back line designed to stop Zlatan Ibrahimovic that went…poorly. This will be a big experiment, and I wouldn’t be that surprised to see a—dare I say it—back three at some point on Saturday. Salt Lake will be licking their chops at the thought of attacking this back four, and it could be a massive game for Steve Clark between the sticks. RSL’s strategy should be to sit back and take what the Timbers give them on the counter. They are facing a pair of questionable center backs in Cascante and Dielna, and suddenly Sam Johnson’s nine goals in 20 appearances look even more impressive. HOWEVER, I think Portland wins this match because Real Salt Lake comes out of their shell and tries to compete. As long as the back line avoids any egregious errors, I think this should be a classic home win for the Timbers. And finally… After a lengthy delay, my friend Reece and I have finally released the first episode of the Double Post Podcast! Check us out on Soundcloud and Twitter to keep up with all the hottest takes in the Timbers community. As always, thanks for reading and go Timbers!
(Seattle, WA) – Entering Sunday’s game in Seattle, the Storm were one of two WNBA teams that were still unbeaten at home along with the Connecticut Sun (6-0). Unfortunately, for Seattle, the Storm finally lost their first game at home against arch-rival the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday afternoon 69-67. The Storm actually did a lot of things well in the game. They out-rebounded the Mercury 37-29, which Coach Hughes was particularly proud of. Seattle had the edge in assists 20-13. They also held Phoenix to below 40% shooting and an abysmal 22% (6-27) from three-point range. But the Mercury also countered the Storm well, especially on the defensive end. They limited Natasha Howard to just nine points on 4-15 shooting (her lowest point total this season). They made life extremely difficult for Howard keeping her out of the paint and sending double-teams her way often. “They doubled and congested Natasha Howard and they did it really early. What we have to do is be able to play out of that [congestion] and put them in rotation and do that quickly. I saw signs of it in the second half, a little bit, but If they are going to commit that much congestion to Howard, we have to play out of it. Phoenix didn’t turn the ball over to us that much tonight, so Howard wasn’t playing in a lot of live ball situations. We will work on understanding that other teams are going to load up Howard, and we need to make them pay in another way.” Coach Dan Hughes on the Mercury’s defensive emphasis on stopping Natasha Howard One of the biggest reasons the Mercury were able to come into Seattle and get the victory was their ability to take care of the basketball. The Storm lead the WNBA in forcing about 17 turnovers per game. However, the Mercury only committed six turnovers. A season-low for a Seattle opponent. I talked to Coach Hughes after the game if the defensive focus on Brittney Griner limited what Seattle could do defensively to throw more traps defensively on other players around the perimeter. “I give them credit, they did a pretty good job of [not turning over the ball]. There was not a lot of errant passes or catches coming from them, so I’ll give them credit. They have Brittney Griner and they have the perimeter aspect. But we need to be able to win games where the other team doesn’t turnover the ball, I am not sure that every team will allow us to pressure them to turnover the ball. I was pleased with our rebounding. It was a close game, there are a lot of little things that we can point to, but I wish we did not get down by double digits in the first half and have to play catch up.” Coach Hughes on the Mercury’s ability to take care of the ball and limit turnovers Phoenix was led by their two healthy superstars DeWanna Bonner and Brittney Griner. Griner was especially dominant any time Seattle did not immediately send double-teams at her. Both players finished with a game-high 20 points each. Griner shot 71% (10-14) and Bonner knocked down a season-high four three-pointers. Griner also led the team with seven rebounds and four blocked shots. The Mercury’s bench still struggles with production but they’re starting to get some really good play from rookie Sophie Cunningham. Cunningham had a career-high 19 points on Friday against the Indiana Fever and finished Sunday’s game as the team’s leading bench player with seven points. She also seemed to be pesky throughout the game, forcing Seattle into some fouls and getting physical with the Storm players. Cunningham was selected 13th overall in the 2019 WNBA Draft, one selection after Seattle made their pick. Cunningham also seems to have leap-frogged first-round pick Alanna Smith on the depth chart as Smith did not play at all and Cunningham played for nearly 20 minutes. Seattle really struggled offensively out of the gate. The Mercury did a fantastic job defensively clogging the middle of the paint, especially Brittney Griner who had three blocks in the first quarter alone. The Storm really lacked Jewell Loyd’s shot-creation ability on the perimeter. Loyd remains sidelined for at least the next two weeks with a severe ankle injury. The Mercury led 19-12 after one. Dewanna Bonner did most of the damage scoring eight points in the opening quarter. Seattle was held to just 28% shooting (5-18) and simply looked out of rhythm. The Storm made several miscues including bad passes to areas their teammates weren’t even at through the first 15 minutes of the game. “We do not make excuses for those turnovers. We just did not execute. They brought double teams and congestion, and they sped us up and we have to deal with being sped up. They have great length on certain match ups. There were a few possessions that we took to the time and the care to get points and it worked. There were a lot of times that we could not handle their aggressive nature on defense. We have to learn things whether we win or lose and unfortunately we learned things tonight from a loss.” Coach Hughes on the sloppy play and not wanting to use it as an excuse Similar to the first game between these two teams this season, Phoenix got out to a double-digit lead (13 points) with 6:50 left to play in the first half on a Sophie Cunningham jump shot, 28-15. However, the Storm would battle back finishing the quarter on an 18-6 run including a 7-0 run to end the quarter. Jordin Canada was a huge spark for Seattle scoring seven points in the 2nd quarter after scoring zero in the first. Phoenix led 34-33 at the half. Seattle took their first lead of the game early in the third on a Mercedes Russell floater to put Seattle up 35-34. The Storm would extend their lead to three at 39-36 before the Mercury would go on their own big run to put them back up five. Crystal Langhorne received a beautiful pass from Sami Whitcomb to lay it up and cut Phoenix’s lead to just three at 51-48 to end the third. Whitcomb would finish the game with a team-high 13 points and five assists. She also had the best plus/minus on the team with a +8. Whitcomb also added six rebounds and only one turnover. It wasn’t one of her best shooting nights (5-13 and 3-11 from 3-point range), but it was certainly one of Whitcomb’s best overall games as a pro. Entering the 4th quarter, the Storm only had one single free throw attempt for the entire game. Something that certainly had an impact on the game. They finished the game with nine attempts, so they did a much better job of getting to the line in the 4th. I spoke to Coach Hughes about the fact they only had the one free throw attempt entering the 4th and he had this to say. “As a coach, I talk to the officials about what they are doing, and I talk to the team about being more aggressive. You have to own it as a team. We get fouled and that’s the way this team wins games. When we’re not getting to the line, that is an issue. We either have to correct it, or I have to convice the officials to change their angle. I ask the team to be more physical and aggressive in getting fouls because we have to have that component.” Coach Hughes on whether it was on the refs or his team to get to the line more The Storm would briefly take a one-point lead over the Mercury with 5:22 left in the game on a pair of Crystal Langhorne Free Throws, but the lead didn’t last long. Phoenix immediately went back to work with Griner who scored back-to-back baskets down in the low post. Then Briann January hit a three, which was followed up by a DeWanna Bonner three and all of a sudden the Mercury had a nine-point lead with less than three minutes left in the game. Bonner’s three looked like it’d be the dagger to put Seattle down for good. But just as they’ve done all season long, the team kept fighting. Natasha Howard countered with a three-pointer of her own and then Mercedes Russell got a huge AND1 to cut Phoenix’s lead to just a one-possession game with two minutes left to play. In the final minute of the game, the Mercury had extended their lead to six when Seattle wasn’t able to convert on the offensive end. But another three-pointer by Sami Whitcomb with 31 seconds left pulled Seattle back within three. The Storm were able to get a defensive stop and Canada took a last-second shot to tie the game. She didn’t make it but she was fouled beyond the three-point line and had a chance to send the game into overtime if she could make all of her free throws. Unfortunately, she was not able to and after a bizarre clock malfunction at the end, the refs called the game in favor of the Mercury. “It came down to the little things. We fought from beginning to end but there was just a few plays and we didn’t finish on the defensive end and that really hurt us. It came down to the wire. We had a chance to tie it up, but basketball is a funny game, you can’t make every shot, you can’t get every free throw, you can’t get every layup. Credit to Phoenix, that’s a tough game, that’s a very tough team but, I think we played a solid 40 minutes but it just came down to the last minute. We fought as a team, we stuck together, we came up a little short.” Mercedes Russell on losing to the Mercury I talked to Russell after the game about her new opportunities this season and if she tries to model her game after Griner while she was at Tennessee. “So it’s just an opportunity for me to grow and get better every single game. I mean, I go against some of the best posts in the game, I mean, Brittney Griner is going to be one of the best to probably ever play. When I was younger, watched her a lot when she was at Baylor because, she was like the hot thing of the year, right? Through college, and now that she is in the league, she is one of the centers I look up to. I look up to a lot obviously, just trying to model my game and grow and just be dominant like them.” Mercedes Russell on watching Griner when she was younger and now competing against her The Storm had another balanced attack which is likely what they will need to continue to do without Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd, or Sue Bird active on the team. Seattle had four players score in double-figures but no player topped 13 points. For a second consecutive game, Natasha Howard really struggled with her shot shooting just 27% (4 of 15); but did lead the team in rebounding with eight. The Mercury were thrilled to pick up the big win to get back to .500 and improve to 5-5 on the season. Coach Sandy Brondello talked about the win after the game. “We’re resilient. We’re persistent. Sometimes against Seattle you have to play ugly and you have to win ugly, but we competed when we needed to. Did we make mistakes? Sure. Did they? Sure. It’s basketball and we’re not going to be perfect. I think we executed the scout pretty well and we were locked in. We missed a lot of open shots and they missed a lot of open shots and that’s what it comes down to when you’ve got two high-quality teams competing.” Mercury Coach Brondello on the team’s gutty road win She also gave an update on the potential return of Diana Taurasi. “It’s not her back. It’s just getting her back into shape and how her body feels. I don’t want her to come back until she mentally knows that she’s able to do that and physically is ready to do it. Maybe it’s next Friday … I don’t know. We have to go back, get on the court and see how she goes and how she responds after practice. It’s good that we’re actually finding a little bit of a groove now without her because we struggled there for a while with all the other injuries. Seattle has just done a little better job than us in that regard.” Up Next KIDS DAY! The Storm continue their six-game homestand with an early 12:00pm game on Wednesday against the New York Liberty. This will be the first match-up between these two teams this season. The Liberty enter Seattle with a 5-7 record and currently sit 9th overall in the standings. However, they have been playing better as of late as they are 5-5 in their last 10 games.
(Everett, WA) – The Seattle Storm finally returned home after four games and 17 days away from playing in one of their two home-town arenas. So it was great to see the Storm return to Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington on Friday night where they faced off against the Los Angeles Sparks. The Storm destroyed the Sparks 84-62 in another impressive victory for the injury-riddled champions. They were led by Jewell Loyd’s 23 points, including tying a career-high five three-pointers. Natasha Howard had another big night with 20 points and nine rebounds out-dueling Candace Parker and the Ogwumike sisters. Both Howard and Loyd were a +27 in plus/minus when they were in the game. The Storm’s bench also had their best game of the season scoring 28 points primarily coming from Crystal Langhorne, Sami Whitcomb, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. Alysha Clark finished one point shy of her first career double-double with 9 points and 10 rebounds. “Natasha Howard and I have a really great relationship, since before she came to Seattle. That is super special. We are trying to use her in a similar way to how we use Breanna Stewart. She is great about moving without the ball, and she is so versatile. I am still trying to figure out where she wants the ball, but because she can score everywhere on the floor, same with me, there is no wrong place. We are trying to use it more. She is doing a great job, I am just trying to figure out where to put her in the best place to score. When she gets hot, or if anyone on the team for that matter gets hot, we are going to find them. Our team is very unselfish, we are just trying to win.” Jewell Loyd on her chemistry with Natasha Howard right now LA jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead and 10-3 margin led by Nneka Ogwumike’s six points within the first two minutes of the game before the Storm finished the first quarter on a 19-7 run. Jewell Loyd scored the Storm’s first 11 points of the game, including three 3-pointers. Natasha Howard got hot once Candace Parker sat down and chipped in the next seven points as Seattle took a 22-17 lead into the second quarter. The Storm pushed their lead to double-digits in the 2nd quarter with blistering shooting, especially from beyond the three-point arc. Seattle shot 62% (8-13) from three-point range in the first half and outscored Los Angeles 24-17 to head into the break up 46-34. Jewell Loyd led all scorers in the first half with 17 points. “It was her player movement and using her screens. I sat with her yesterday and we watched all of her shot attempts on film. I totally believe that she will deliver in a big way when she gets space, so we talked about getting her open and using structure. I thought that we screened better today, that was one of the things that I wanted us to make sure that we were practicing. I talked to Sue Bird about it, and she agreed, that we need to screen better. I thought that we did that today. Jewell Loyd and Natasha Howard both were incredibly active, incredibly timely, to make some big plays for us. They were great together and it was great to see those two be so effective in this game.” Coach Dan Hughes on Jewell Loyd’s more productive shooting night Nneka Ogwumike was plagued by foul trouble all game long, picking up her 4th foul early in the 3rd quarter. She was limited to roughly 13 minutes in the game and only played about three and a half minutes in the 2nd half. This caused problems for the Sparks as Nneka was their only player to score in double-figures this game with 10 points. Rookie Kalani Brown did have some nice plays off the bench for Los Angeles. Brown finished the game with six points on 3-5 shooting and three rebounds. The Sparks looked lost on offense throughout most of the game. There was no consistent flow to their offense and got out-worked by Seattle throughout the game on the glass 39-29. Seattle also forced several jump-balls on hustle plays during the game. “We have been an amazingly good team – like when I studied us, and one thing I’ve had is plenty of time to study us – we have been an amazingly good team on the strong side. Our rotations, our double teams, our pressure, I think that’s why we’re number one in the league in that area. What we needed to sure up was the back side, meaning rebounding, identification of their three-point shooters. And I thought we did that today. That is an important part because we got more transition today, because we rebounded better. Creating opportunities there is very rewarding for us.” Coach Dan Hughes after the game on the importance of rebounding The Storm built their lead to 22 points in the third quarter and ended the third period up twenty, 64-44. Basketball is often a game of runs. LA went on a 5-0 run to start the 4th quarter. Then Marina Mabrey had a great look at a three-pointer. Had she knocked that down Seattle would have been forced to call timeout and regroup. Instead, she missed and Jewell Loyd was able to knock down a three-pointer on the other end. Immediately afterward, Sami Whitcomb got a quick steal which led to an easy layup by Crystal Langhorne that forced Coach Derek Fisher to call a timeout. Seattle knocked down 14 of 26 three’s, good for 54% shooting from downtown. The long-ball was a huge key to the Storm’s victory Friday night as they knocked down more than twice as many three-pointers as Los Angeles. Home Cooking With the victory, the Storm now moves to 6-4 on the season and a perfect 3-0 at home. Despite playing seven of their first nine games on the road this season, the Storm have positioned themselves for a solid playoff spot as we approach a third of the way into the season. The Storm Crazies have helped Seattle pick up wins against Phoenix, Minnesota, and now Los Angeles during their first three games in Everett. The team is averaging 82 points per game at home, compared to 74 points per contest on the road. The bench points were huge in this game and for the team moving forward. If they can continue to get these types of contributions from their bench the Storm will be able to compete with anybody. Hollywood Blues The Los Angeles Sparks are supposed to be legit contenders for the WNBA Championship this season so why don’t they look the part? The Sparks have now lost three straight games, the past two being massive blowouts against the Washington Mystics and Seattle Storm. The Sparks look completely inept offensively. On Tuesday, the Mystics held them to 52 points for the game in a 29 point blowout loss. On Friday night in Everett, the Storm held the Sparks to 62 points and Los Angeles had less than 50 points with just four minutes left to play in the game. The team scored 13 points in garbage time just to break sixty. It is not clear what the Spark’s offensive schemes were or what they were trying to accomplish. They had zero offensive flow and Seattle’s team defense, rotations and traps really bothered them. Candace Parker, who just returned this week from her hamstring injury that kept her out of the first seven games of the season, looks out of shape. She definitely hasn’t looked right in her first two games back, whether she wasn’t ready to return or just hasn’t adjusted well. Against the Mystics, Parker played 25 minutes shot 1-9 from the floor and scored just three points. She also had six turnovers. On Friday against Seattle, Parker once again struggled mightily in 23 minutes where she shot 1-9 and 0-4 from three-point range for two points. Parker also finished the game with the worst plus/minus of any player on either team with a -16. “For sure. We’re a different team with Candace (Parker) back and Alana Beard back. It changes our starting lineup. All of our players are committed to the team, but it’s an adjustment. If you’ve been starting and playing minutes then all of a sudden that’s kind of taken away from you in a sense it affects the camaraderie and the positive energy for a little bit. We have to work our way through that. Every player has gone through it on some level, but initially it still hurts a little bit so we have to push through some of those things as well.” Coach Derek Fisher on the team needing to find the right lineups and make adjustments First-year WNBA Coach Derek Fisher is struggling to find the right lineups and offensive schemes through the Spark’s first nine games of the season. With the loss to Seattle, Los Angeles falls to 4-5 on the season and will need to regroup to figure out what’s going wrong. “We started off strong and then kind of had to play catch up once a lot of threes were being made and a lot of open shots were being made. We discussed tightening up our defense, but we weren’t able to finish a lot of the possessions out so that definitely caught up with us. Offensively we just have to find our flow. We have to find our flow with reacquiring more people. We have to find our flow with understanding each other’s games and that’s kind of where we find ourselves right now.” Nneka Ogwumike on her thoughts of the game Rain Drops (Fun Notes) Former University of Washington star and current NBA Player Isaiah Thomas participated in practice with the Seattle Storm this week. He lobbied for a chance to play and practice with the team via Twitter and they were able to accommodate. Afterward, both players and Thomas seemed thankful for the fun opportunity. Also of note, Thomas wore Seattle Sonics basketball shorts while participating in the practice. A fun nod to the legacy of Seattle basketball and our former NBA team. The Seattle Storm may have just created the best ad campaign to get fans to vote for the Storm players to the WNBA All-Star game with a reenactment of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Including a cameo by Sue Bird who plays the role of Zordon. Check it out! Coach Dan Hughes was a little emotional after the game after returning to the sidelines for the first time this season after going through Cancer treatment. “It felt great, but I also felt grateful to people who supported me in my health journey. I felt grateful for the team and the coaches. I was a little bit humbled to be honest. There are a lot of people doing work and a lot of people sending prayers my way for this day. It was more than basketball today. Just thinking about my wife, she had no life for two months because she was caring for me, so things like that made tonight a little more special. It was just great to be with the team, in this victory, or even in a loss, I felt like I was in the right spot.” Up Next The Seattle Storm (6-4) will host the Indiana Fever (5-5) at Hec-Ed, the University of Washington’s Alaska Airline Arena. It will be Seattle’s first game played at the University of Washington this season and a homecoming for former Washington Husky Sami Whitcomb.
We have previewed the start of the WHL playoffs, and now we are officially in it. The entire U.S. Division is represented, and they all played their first two games over the weekend. We briefly recap those games to get up to speed before Game 3. Game 1 Seattle Thunderbirds 1, Vancouver Giants 7 A scoreless first period ushered in quiet the offensive outburst for Vancouver. Milos Roman’s wrister from a pass right in front of the crease via Jaden Joseph on the power play opened the scoring. The Giants scored 23 seconds later on Lukas Svejkovsky’s clean shot from the top of the crease, partially aided by a screen from Evan Patrician.