(Seattle, WA) – The Storm entered Friday night on their first two-game losing streak since 2017. Unfortunately for Seattle, their losing streak would be extended to three games after the Atlanta Dream would come into Seattle with the worst record in the WNBA and upset the Storm 77-66.
Atlanta used extremely tough defense to limit the Storm to just 38 points through the first three quarters. Seattle scored 28 points in the 4th in mostly “garbage time” when Atlanta already had a 20 point lead in the game. The Storm shot just 36% from the floor and 26% from three-point range for the game. Atlanta also forced Seattle into 19 turnovers.
“Give Atlanta credit. We have been in a lot of close games. We’ve won our share and we’ve lost our share but I think they deserved to win tonight. We have to take care of things in our own house like caring for the ball and being in the right position… But that’s part of the journey.”Coach Hughes on the loss to Atlanta
The Dream had four starters score in double figures. They were led by Tiffany Hayes who had a breakout game scoring a game-high 21 points, Brittney Sykes (11), Jessica Breland (10) and Elizabeth Williams (10) were the other players that scored in double figures. Atlanta also got great bench contributions with 22 points off the bench.
Seattle had three players in double figures, led by Natasha Howard‘s 20 points and seven rebounds. And while both Jordin Canada (15) and Alysha Clark (12) also finished the game in double figures, a lot of their points were in the garbage time of the 4th quarter. Canada had just two points midway through the third quarter and scored 11 of her 15 points in the 4th. Seattle’s bench was outscored 22-11.
The game couldn’t have ended any different than it started as Seattle got off to an exceptional start, scoring the game’s first 11 points. It was great to see as Natasha Howard scored on her first two shot attempts of the game earning four quick points in the opening minute of the game. Jordin Canada would then knock down a mid-range jumper to put Seattle up 6-0 and Atlanta immediately called timeout one minute and 19 seconds into the game. Natasha Howard scored nine of Seattle’s first eleven points. Unfortunately, the Storm gave up some unforced turnovers and missed some shots and the Dream were able to rally with their own 11-0 run to tie the game up.
After the Storm took an 11-0 lead with 7:10 left to play in the first quarter, the Atlanta Dream would finish the quarter on a 15-2 run.
“Sometimes it just takes a call to action. I think this team knows how good they can be. I don’t think they’ve ever not believed that we could walk into any gym and win. I’ve learned that I’ve got to use that early timeout. There were a lot of times last year when we’d get down 8-2 and I’d let them ride it out. I just think that when you’re in the situations we’re in that calling that early timeout, settling them down … on the first two possessions we didn’t really have a flow to the ball on (Natasha) Howard. As the game went along, as we flowed to the ball and congested, then it made those touches tougher or more crowded. We did change schemes. We were in some early traps and (Jordin) Canada is hard to trap because of how fast she is in those step ups so we got out of that and really played her a little more in containment than a trap.” Atlanta Coach Nicki Collen
The Storm’s scoring drought would continue well into the second quarter as they would manage just four points through the first six and a half minutes. After Seattle went up 11-0, Atlanta would outscore them 26-4 in the next 13 1/2 minutes. The Storm had a chance to rally late in the first half, but the Dream knocked down back-to-back three’s to put Atlanta up eight points at the break, 32-24.
Seattle tried to rally early in the third knocking down two three-pointers from beyond the arc, but their defense wasn’t up to par. Atlanta had their best scoring quarter of the game putting up 24 points.
After the game Coach Dan Hughes talked about how they just didn’t do enough in this game. When they defended well, they couldn’t score. When they scored in good spurts, they weren’t defending. And at times, they weren’t doing either and that’s how Atlanta was able to take over this game.
The Dream’s lead would balloon up to 18 after the Storm picked up three consecutive technical fouls, including two on Coach Dan Hughes which resulted in his ejection. Hughes lost his composure after the ref called an extremely delayed charge foul against Crystal Langhorne. Langhorne had driven into the paint and her body collided with one of the Atlanta player’s. Both players fell down but not before Langhorne could make an additional pass out to the top of the key. Clark then made another pass in the game and then the ref called the charge foul on Langhorne a good 2-3 seconds after the contact had been made.
Apparently, between all the loud boos, Shavonte Zellous picked up a technical foul. That combined with the delayed call on the charge against Langhorne is what set Coach Hughes off. After the game, Coach Hughes just said he was defending the players and that he wanted his team to know that he’s always going to fight for them.
Seattle showed heart and determination by outscoring the Dream 28-21 in the final quarter, but it was too little, too late. The Storm drop their third game in a row at home and fall to 8-8 on the season. They are currently still the 5th overall seed in the league, but desperately need to rest and re-evaluate where they stand after this game.
When asked after the game, what can they do to prevent these 10-0 (or more) runs from happening against them, Coach Hughes paused for a good moment and ultimately said that the team needs to get healthy and get some of their players back. It was the first time I felt he was visibly frustrated about the losses and the injuries that have plagued the team this season.
Coach Hughes spoke to the media about the injuries to Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Jewell Loyd, both who were missing in action Friday night due to ankle injuries. Loyd’s injury is definitely more severe and will take longer to recover, but they believe Kaleena will have a decent shot to return next week either against the Dallas Wings on Friday or possibly the New York Liberty on Sunday, July 14th. Loyd is doubtful to be back for this homestand, but Coach Hughes has been extremely impressed with her hard work and dedication to get back onto the court.
“Jewell has worked as hard as I’ve ever seen an athlete work to get back. Every time I walk in she’s working. So we’re getting close.”Coach Hughes on Loyd’s recovery process
Tiffany Hayes talked to the media about the Dream’s rough start to the season, now 3-9 after defeating Seattle on Friday night.
“We’re up and down right now. We’ll have a game where we’re making shots, but our defense sucks. We’ll have a game where our defense is great then we’re not making shots. We have to put stuff together and we’re not putting them together yet. We just have to find a way to dig down and play great defense and hit shots for the whole game. We’ll have a game where we‘ll do that for three quarters then we’ll lose the game in the third quarter. We just have to put a whole game together. I know what it is because I see it every game.”Tiffany Hayes on the ups and downs of the season so far
After scoring a career-high 19 points on Wednesday’s game, Mercedes Russell was held to just two points and was nearly held scoreless for the entire game. Her two points came on a pair of free throws with 46 seconds left in the game. After the game, Dream Forward Brittney Sykes talked about the defensive job they did on Seattle’s post players.
“I saw a level of resilience. When the triple tech happened, a lot of teams would dig deep and find the energy. You heard the crowd – they’re electrifying. We dug deep and kept our foot on their necks. We just kept playing hard and kept reminding ourselves that it’s going to get done on the defensive end. We’ve been in plenty of games where we’ve shot terrible and won games because we played sound defense. The guards took it personal to go rebound. Our posts do a great job of blocking out people like Mercedes Russell, Crystal Langhorne and especially Natasha Howard. She’s great. She’s an MVP candidate so she’s going to do what she has to help her team win. Credit to (Monique Billings), Marie (Gulich), (Jessica Breland) and (Elizabeth Williams) for every turn they took on her. That’s a big task and they did it real well.” Dream Forward Brittney Sykes on limiting Seattle’s Mercedes Russell and Crystal Langhorne
Sykes then talked about the momentum the Dream can carry from this victory.
“It’s definitely a momentum swinger. We’re going to Phoenix now. And it’s hard to beat Seattle in Seattle and it’s really hard to beat Phoenix in Phoenix. It should be hard to beat a team at home every game. We have to make that our identity as well. It starts on the road right now. This is a great momentum builder because this is a great team. This is last year’s defending champion. Whether they’re down players or not, they’ve won games without players so we have to take it as if everybody on that court is an important player and we did that tonight.”
Seattle still has a couple more home games before going back on the road. The Storm are currently 1-3 on this six game home-stand. Fortunately, they will get a much needed rest as Seattle has a week off before they play Dallas at home next Friday.