(Everett, WA) – Now that All-Star weekend is over the Storm are back to work as they returned to Everett, WA, Friday night to face off against the team they beat in the Finals last season, the Washington Mystics.
The team from D.C. was able to get a modicum of revenge as they jumped all over the Storm from the get-go on their way to an incredibly impressive twenty-point victory over the defending WNBA Champions, 99-79.
Elena Delle Donne absolutely torched the Storm scoring a game-high 29 points on 9-15 shooting. She also shot 75% from beyond the arc (3-4) and knocked down all eight of her free-throw attempts. She also added another game-high 12 rebounds. EDD was one of five Mystics players to score in double figures with the others being Atkins (17), Meesseman (13), Toliver (12) and Powers (12).
“We need to be quicker, but [Elena Delle Donne] also made the plays that only the great ones are doing. She’s a really good player. But we had to be quicker to those points and we weren’t quicker to those points. We also had to force her off. Our early work and our denials didn’t really keep her from touching the ball a lot. I thought she was in a great rhythm and difficult to guard. You never want a great player in rhythm and confident.”Coach Dan Hughes on the Storm’s inability to stop Elena Delle Donne from scoring and getting good loks
By contrast, the Storm had just one player score in double figures. Natasha Howard was the lone bright spot scoring a team-high 26 points and finishing the game with six rebounds, three steals, and three blocked shots.
Jewell Loyd was re-inserted into the starting lineup for the first time since her major ankle injury that took her out of seven games this season. Unfortunately, Loyd continued to struggle shooting just 2-8 from the floor and finishing the game with just eight points.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Sami Whitcomb combined for 17 points off the bench (9 and 8) and Jordin Canada chipped in nine with most of those coming in garbage minutes in the 4th quarter. But as a whole, the team underperformed and fell flat in their matchup against the Mystics.
Seattle started the game shooting 1-12 from the floor and managed just three points total through the first seven and a half minutes of the game as they trailed Washington 18-3 with 2:30 left in the first quarter.
“I thought Washington came out and separated from us. You look at the last three quarters and I thought [the Storm] was competitive. I thought that in the first [quarter] we really weren’t at game speed. We hadn’t played in a while and it showed. But you have to give Washington credit. They really executed offensively and shot the ball extremely well.”Coach Dan Hughes on the Storm’s slow start
Jewell Loyd finally got the Storm going with an aggressive slash to the basket where she was fouled after making a layup. Natasha Cloud disagreed with the call and ended up receiving a technical foul which led to a four-point play by Loyd.
The bench came in and gave Seattle some energy which allowed them to cut the Mystic’s lead down to 11 by the end of the first, 23-12.
From there, it never really got any better. The Storm were never able to make a significant run to get back into the game. Seattle struggled defensively, which was surprising to see as they have been one of the best defensive teams all season long (ranked 2nd just behind Las Vegas).
Basketball is a game of runs, but it was the Mystics that kept making more of them. With the Storm battling to cut the deficit to single digits the Mystics responded with a quick 9-0 run on three consecutive three-pointers. Aeriel Atkins knocked down back-to-back three-pointers and Elena Delle Donne followed that up with a three of her own and the Mystics’ lead was back up to 17 at 44-27. Seattle would trail 48-34 at the half.
Once again, the Storm made a run outscoring the Mystics 7-0 to cut Washington’s lead to 11 with roughly four minutes left in the third quarter. But before the Storm could cut the lead to single digits and really get the crowd back into it, Delle Donne went on her own personal 5-0 run. The Mystics finished the quarter on a 17-10 run at that point, essentially shutting the door on Seattle as they led 78-60.
“We’ve been having a little bit of a lull shooting wise. As a shooting team, you’re going to have nights when you get really hot like this. It was great to see (Ariel Atkins) get going. We just have so many great shooters and so many offensive weapons so I feel like any night someone can get hot and we feed off of each other.”Elena Delle Donne on the team’s hot shooting
The Storm trailed by 10-20 points throughout the entire game and they were never able to change the momentum. A huge factor was that the Mystics shot a blistering 59% from three-point range (13-22) while holding Seattle to an abysmal sub-14% (3-22).
The Storm have often utilized the long-ball to their great advantage in both their 2018 championship season and this year. But they just didn’t have it tonight. The shots just weren’t falling. And for every three the Storm would miss, the Mystics would turn around and bury another three in their face.
The 99 points is the most Seattle has given up all season long. The Storm have been quite good defensively this year and it’s really been a huge key to their success, but their defense was no match for the red-hot shooting of the Mystics tonight.
“It was very frustrating. It was hard for it to work at this moment… I give credit to Washington. They broke us down. They did a really good job of kicking it ahead and doing what they do best: shooting threes… We have to bounce back. We have L.A. coming up.”Natasha Howard on the frustration of the Mystics’ offensive barrage Friday night
Mystics coach Mike Thibault was pleased with his team’s performance after the game.
“Our pace was great. We set a good tone in the first quarter at both ends of the floor, but we got a little bit sloppy defensively in the second half. We fouled a little bit too much in the second half. They made their one run at us and got it down to 11, but we knocked down another three and our big-time players came up big. We got great performances by a couple of people off the bench tonight. Tianna (Hawkins) was playing well until she got tossed. Obviously, Emma (Meesseman) was really good. When your star (Elena Delle Donne) gets 29 — that helps.”
Elena Delle Donne echoed those statements.
“A lot of grit and a little bit too much emotion at times. It’s always great to be able to pull out a win like this, especially playing here. It’s always tough and the fans are super loud. You know they’re a great team when you have a lead like that and you still never feel comfortable. Great win and hopefully we can continue to build and get better.”
When asked if wearing the mask gave Delle Donne an extra edge (superpowers perhaps), she responded by saying.
“I don’t know, but I like the mask though. It feels good and I feel strong in it so the mask might have to stay.”
The mask is working, EDD has quickly risen to the top of the MVP rankings in national polls. She’s putting up monster numbers and the Mystics (14-6) absolutely look primed for a return to the WNBA Finals. And this year, I think they’re ready to win the whole thing.