(Washington, D.C.) – The Seattle Storm faced off against the Washington Mystics Friday evening in a rematch of the 2018 WNBA Finals. And similar to their trip last year, Seattle was able to go in and get an important win, 74-71. But this game was far from easy and not without cost.
The Storm trailed most of this game after they led early in the first quarter 15-10. Seattle trailed by just two after the first quarter 26-24. However, Seattle was outscored by six in the second period and trailed 46-38 at half-time. The third quarter didn’t get any better for the Storm as the Mystics outscored Seattle 17-14 to take an 11 point lead into the fourth quarter.
A large reason for the Storm’s struggles in the second and third quarters was the loss of starting point guard Jordin Canada to a nasty knee injury in the second quarter. Canada drove into a crowd of players and got knocked slightly off balance mid-air and landed with her knee getting crushed under her body weight. She had to scoot her body off the court and was unable to stand on her own feet. Alysha Clark and one of the trainers helped Canada limp off the court and into the locker room. Canada would not return in this game and her current injury status is unknown at this time.
While things looked very bleak especially once the Storm got down by as many as 13 points in the 4th quarter, Seattle’s defense really clamped down when they needed it the most. Alysha Clark, Blake Dietrick, and Natasha Howard all played incredible defense in the quarter. The Mystics shot an abysmal 3-16 (19%) in the 4th quarter. They only scored four points over the final 8 minutes and 17 seconds of the game. Washington also committed six turnovers in the final period. The Storm used an 8-0 run to get back into the game and finished the game on a 10-0 run as the Mystics failed to score in the final two minutes and forty-eight seconds. In total, Seattle outscored the Mystics 22-8 in the final period.
Interim Head Coach Gary Kloppenburg talked about his team’s resiliency after the game.
“The thing with this team, it’s a very resilient team. It’s a tough-minded team. They played very hard. They like to play pressure defense so at some point in the game, usually it kicks in and we get couple runs. Usually, all of our wins, we’ve gotten maybe a period of time, three or four minutes, where we force some turnovers, get a couple of layups. They understand that they’re never out of a game. I think this was probably a good example of that tonight.”Coach Klop after the game
Seattle got major contributions from Natasha Howard, Mercedes Russell, and Jewell Loyd. Howard and Russell were all over the glass, each pulling down 11 rebounds. Seattle outrebounded the Mystics by ten, 40-30. Howard scored a game-high 19 points to go along with her 11 rebounds.
Mercedes Russell continues to shine in the starting lineup. Fresh off her career-high performance of 13 points against Indiana on Tuesday, Russell set new career-highs tonight with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Her first career double-double. Russell did an excellent job scoring in the low post and from offensive rebound put-backs. Russell shot 7-8 for 78% from the floor and did it all in less than 30 minutes.
Jewell Loyd also played well late in the game. She was the third Storm player to score in double-figures, finishing the game with 14 points. She had a beautiful transition basket that cut Washington’s lead to just two points and then knocked down the game-winner with eight seconds left to play on a beautiful shot above the foul line.
Loyd and Howard isolated one side of the court and performed a high screen and roll. Loyd delivered a beautiful pass between two defenders that allowed Howard to get a good lane to the basket. Washington sent four defenders to stop Howard as the defense collapsed inside. Howard was able to read the defense and kick the ball back out to Loyd who was waiting wide open above the free throw line. Loyd sank the jumper and Seattle had completed a major comeback.
The Mystics were led by Elena Delle Donne’s 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Aeriel Powers, was the only other player for the Mystics to score in double figures as she added 16 points. Powers also had a chance to send the game into overtime as Seattle double-teamed Delle Donne on Washington’s final possession, EDD tip passed the ball to Powers who drove to the lane and was able to get up a near wide open look that fell wide-right off the rim. Mercedes Russell grabbed the rebound and Alysha Clark sank one of two free throws to secure the victory for Seattle.
Seattle was not the only team to lose their starting point guard in this game. In a bit of a shocking scene, veteran guard Kristi Toliver picked up two technical fouls in the first quarter and was ejected from the game. The first technical, she got about three minutes into the game, when she had to take a difficult fade-away shot as the shot-clock was expiring. Toliver fell to the ground and felt there was contact when the foul wasn’t called she got into the refs face and gave him an earful. The second technical foul occurred with about 30 seconds left in the first quarter, as Toliver was called for a reach-in foul, she spiked the ball against the ground and then did a volleyball serve of the ball towards the ref. Toliver finished the game with five points and four assists and her presence was definitely missed down the stretch of this game.
Mystics Coach Mike Thibault was not pleased with his team’s performance after the game.
“That was bad basketball. We shot terribly; our defense wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great when we needed it most to be. We did a great job in the first half of taking care of the basketball and moving the ball. Second half, we moved the ball but missed shot after shot after shot, scored eight points in the fourth quarter. Although it’s hard, you know, we had five turnovers in the fourth quarter, and to add to that, I don’t know if our talk management was very good. Not getting the ball across half court, getting offensive fouls, throwing the ball away. Just those things – they are not good basketball. So we have to go and make up for it somewhere in the next month. We have to get one that maybe no one expects you to win. Now we have to go get one of those somehow because we gave them tonight. Credit to Seattle for hanging in, but you know I think as much as anything, when you shot the ball like we did, it’s hard to win a game shooting 30-something percent.”Mystics Coach Mike Thibault after the game
With the victory, Seattle moves to 5-3 on the season and Washington falls to 4-3. The win moved Seattle to third place in the standings as the Los Angeles Sparks (4-2) also won on Friday. Despite losing Breanna Stewart for the entire season due to an Achilles tear, losing Sue Bird for potentially the entire season (or at least two months), losing free agent guard Shavonte Zellous for a few games, not having Alysha Clark for a few games, and now potentially losing Jordin Canada for an extended period of time; despite it all, the Storm have really battled through a ton of adversity to put forth a tremendous effort this season.
Many national writers were predicting the Storm would finish 10th in the WNBA. The team is 3rd a quarter of the way through the season. No matter where they finish, this has been an incredibly impressive run.
“We have pretty much the same team as last year so there is some familiarity there, which helps and we’ve all been in this position at one point or another in our career, we’re all professionals, we understand how sports go. So just trying to find our identity as a team, just like we did even if [Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird] were here, we would have to find our identity as a team so just doing that and having people being positive and confident in their roles has been a big help.”Alysha Clark on how the Storm have managed to play well despite the injuries
The Storm finally finish up their four game road trip as they head to Connecticut to face off against the best team in the WNBA this season, the Connecticut Sun. The Sun are currently 7-1 and led by MVP candidate Center Jonquel Jones. Jones is leading the league in rebounding at 12.1 rebounds per game an is 4th in scoring at 17.8 points per game. Beyond Jones, the Sun are also the deepest team in the league often going six deep off the bench and having 11 players putting up quality time and numbers.