(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.
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.
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.”
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.