(Chicago, Illinois) – In less than 10 days time the Seattle Storm have faced off against the Chicago Sky twice in Chicago and, unfortunately for the Storm, they have come up empty both times. On Sunday afternoon, the Storm lost 78-71.
The Sky absolutely exploded out of the gate. Chicago knocked down their first five shots without a miss, including two three-pointers. The Sky’s first miss in the game resulted in an offensive rebound where they kicked it out for another three-pointer. Before Seattle knew what hit them, they were already trailing by double digits. After one-quarter of play, the Storm trailed the Sky 29-16. Chicago shot over 63% from the floor and 50% from beyond the arc.
Interim Head Coach Kloppenburg felt the first-half was just too much to overcome.
“I thought we, for whatever reason, we started the game out kind of sluggish and a step slow defensively, and I thought that we were in a hole the whole game trying to dig out and it seemed we’d dig out a little bit and then we’d slip back down, so it was just one of those kinds of games and it felt like a struggle all game. I will say we fought and tried to get ourselves back in it, and I thought we played really hard after we got into the second, but by the fourth quarter, the lead was too big and we couldn’t get out.”
Things got much worse for the Storm before they got better. The Sky would start the second quarter on a 14-1 run. At that point, Seattle trailed by 26 (43-17). Fortunately, Seattle would go on their own major run, finishing the first half on a 17-1 surge. Basketball is indeed a game of runs. The Sky went ice cold and did not score another field goal after the 7:15 mark of the second quarter.
Seattle tried to make runs in the second half, at times cutting the Sky’s double-digit lead to around seven points. But they could never get over the hump. One of the reasons was that Natasha Howard was held to just four points in the second half.
A key series took place in the fourth quarter with the majority of Seattle’s starters resting on the bench. Coach Klop opted to keep his bench out there for a little too long and ultimately the Sky turned a seven-point lead into a 16 point lead 71-55 with 7:04 left to play. The starters would return to the game and make a run but at that point, it was too little, too late.
Seattle was led by Jewell Loyd and Natasha Howard. Both players scored 20 points but were the only two players for Seattle to score in double figures. Seattle’s bench was outscored 35-9 and the Storm were out-rebounded 45-22. Two key stats that really had a huge impact in this game.
Jewell Loyd was disappointed in losing in her hometown Chicago twice in the past 10 days.
“We didn’t start either game off well. I think that’s something in the league you have to do. You have to come out strong. You have to every game, but definitely on the road. We didn’t do that until later in the game. Probably the same result. Obviously, we didn’t win last time, and we didn’t win this time. We dug ourselves into a pretty big hole. We fought back, but you gotta start off intense or it’s gonna be a long night.”
Natasha Howard echoed those statements after the game.
“Starting off slow in the first half we put ourselves in a hole in the first game as well. We can’t start off slow in this league, this league is too good to do that. We have another game at Indy on Tuesday so that’s a good way to bounce back.”
The Chicago Sky were led by Cheyenne Parker’s 18 points and 11 rebounds. Big Mama Stef, Stefanie Dolson, also had a fantastic game scoring 15 points (on 7-8 shooting) and five rebounds. Kent Washington’s own Courtney Vandersloot chipped in with 11 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.
Chicago coach James Wade praised Parker’s performance after the game.
“I thought she dominated the game. That’s what we needed from her. She works hard, and we just want her to reward herself by seeing it out there on the floor during the game, so we’re happy about it but we have more games to play so we look forward to her doing it some more.”Sky Coach James Wade on Cheyenne Parker’s performance
Giving Players A True Opportunity
Cheyenne Parker is one of the best examples of a team believing in a young player and actually allowing them to learn and develop instead of giving up on them too soon. Parker was the 5th overall pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft but really struggled as a rookie and the first few years of her career. In sports, a Top 5 draft pick that doesn’t pan out is often referred to as a bust. It looked like Parker was going to be a bust for the Sky. And yet in her 4th season, still a member of the team that drafted her, Parker really began to develop. Last season Parker averaged 10 points and nearly six rebounds per game and has similar numbers again this year. She has carved out a strong role on the Chicago Sky and the Sky’s patience and willingness to allow her to grow have really rewarded the franchise.
In Seattle, we just saw the Storm cut 2nd round pick Anriel Howard after just a handful of games into her WNBA career. The Connecticut Sun have also had a quick trigger to part ways with their young draft picks which in some regards have backfired. The Sun drafted Elizabeth Williams with the 4th overall pick in 2015, but barely gave her any playing time her rookie season and traded her away to Atlanta where she went on to become a WNBA All-Star. And in this off-season, the Sun traded away their 2018 1st round pick Lexie Brown to the Minnesota Lynx, where Brown has shined off the bench averaging over 11 points per game. It really goes to show that these younger players do have the talent to compete in the WNBA, but that their teams don’t always give them that opportunity and give up on them way too soon!
What We Know
After six games the Seattle Storm are 3-3. They’re undefeated at home (2-0), but Seattle has really struggled on the road (1-3). As we approach a quarter of the way into the season, the Storm are about where I thought they’d be without Breanna Stewart or Sue Bird. They are currently the 7th seed out of 12. During some games, they look like they’re going to be a Top 5 team in the league and the next game they look like they’re headed to the Draft Lottery, missing the playoffs entirely.
Seattle continues to struggle to score. They have yet to total 80 points in any of their losses and are averaging just 70 points per game in their defeats. The bench being outscored 35-9 is extremely concerning. The fact the Storm only had two players score in double figures is also a problem.
The Storm currently are on a four game road trip and play the next three games on the road away from Seattle/Everett. Seattle plays the Indiana Fever on Tuesday. The Fever off to a surprisingly strong start with a 3-2 record, but were beaten by the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday.