(Dallas, TX) – The Storm had already clinched a playoff spot a couple of weeks ago, but it came down to the final day of the regular season to find out what seed the Storm would finish with and if they’d be playing their first playoff game at home or on the road.
Seattle went 1-1 in their final two games as did the Minnesota Lynx with both teams losing to the Los Angeles Sparks. Seattle finished 18-16, eight wins less than last season. Which is still quite impressive considering they were without 2018 league MVP, Breanna Stewart, and 11-time All-Star Sue Bird.
Coach Dan Hughes was asked about his team’s overall performance without two superstars this season.
“Well I think what you have is you had other people really step up. And I think defensively, we’ve been able to lean on that certain periods as we grew at others. You’ve got Jordin and Mercedes Russell, which, to me, are candidates for Most Improved Player. You’ve got Alysha Clark, who’s providing the leadership ‘cause losing Sue and Stewie, that’s a lot of leadership. And then you’ve got Jewell Loyd and Natasha, who are really having good years. Natasha’s really [shown] an exceptional growth, even after a good first year with us.”Coach Hughes on the Storm’s play this season
On Sunday, the Storm handled business defeating the Dallas Wings 78-64. Seattle took an 18 point advantage into half time and the game was all but over. They were able to cruise in the 2nd half and despite a late run by the Wings, it was too little, too late.
Rookie of the year candidate Arike Ogunbowale continued her impressive scoring stretch with a game-high 25 points. Isabelle Harrison was the only other Wings player to score in double digits with 12 points.
While Arike still got her points, Seattle did hold her below 30 points which ended her consecutive game streak of 30+ points at four. If she would have scored 30 or more it would have set a new WNBA record for most consecutive games with 30+ points. So Seattle can take some solace in ending that streak on Sunday.
Coach Hughes talked about the team’s defensive plan to slow down the superstar rookie.
“Well, I think that’s kind of how we play. But we deliberately, you know…watching what Arike’s been doing; you know, she’s seen a lot of double teams lately, but we wanted to be really quick to her. We did not want her…because lately, it seems like she’s handling it and making basketball plays. But I thought we played well today. You know, it was an important game for us because we knew if we could win and LA could beat Minnesota, we could go home. So we were motivated.”Coach Hughes on coming out strong to get home court advantage over Minnesota
Crystal Langhorne also talked about the need to limit Ogunbowale’s scoring in this game.
“She’s extremely talented, as everyone knows. Yeah, you’ve got to put a lot of bodies at her. Throw double teams at her. Throw triple teams at her sometimes. Make her give it up.”
Seattle held the edge in several key statistics, including rebounding (35-30), assists (19-11), blocks (6-3), and FG % (46% to 34%).
The Storm swept the Dallas Wings this season three games to none. The Wings finished the regular season with the third-worst record in the WNBA at 10-24. Not terribly surprising after trading away Liz Cambage before the start of the year and playing the season without All-Star guard Skylar Diggins-Smith.
With their combined record from last season, the Wings will have the 3rd best odds to win the WNBA Draft Lottery and will likely end up with the 3rd overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft.
By finishing with the 6th best record in the WNBA this season, the Storm will own the 7th overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft next year. Seattle will likely draft the best player available or possibly look at potential back-ups for the point guard or small forward positions.
Additional Thoughts from Dallas
After the game, Arike Ogunbowale was asked about her thoughts on the season as a whole.
“Yeah it was fun. I wish we could have gotten more wins but we’re under construction. Next year we’re going to be really good once we get some of our best players back and draft a nice core player. Whatever happens in the off season we’re going to come back stronger. I’m excited for the future but this year was fun.”
On her experience playing both the shooting guard and getting some time at point guard this season.
“I’m comfortable in both positions. I’m glad I actually had this year to play point guard, to develop it, and play through rookie mistakes. I think it made me a good point guard so if the point guards need help next year, I’ll be there. I’ll be on the wing too and be available for whatever.”
Skyler Diggins-Smith was also interviewed after the game about the season in totality and not being able to play this season.
“I’m proud of the team. There was a lot of adversity we had to go through this year and had a change. We have the youngest team in the league, and unfortunately a lot of the vets weren’t able to be on the floor this year, myself included, so everyone is learning. I was proud of the effort that the girls gave. When you come into this league, you don’t really have time to prepare as a rookie and to get ready. Our rookies have taken on the most criticism. The future is bright for our league. Our young players have been able to make a splash and that’s a blessing in our foundation, that’s what we’re trying to do. Like I said, you can only control what you can control but the girls did a good job in regards that we couldn’t really get a break this year. They stayed together as a team, they’re a great group of women, and they play hard all the way until the end.”SDS thoughts on the Dallas Wings’ season
Diggins-Smith also talked about the plan to play for Dallas next season.
“I’m going to be playing basketball next year. I’m trying to play. I’m not part of the national team just for fun, it really is a huge goal of mine to represent the Dallas Wings so that’s what I’m shooting for. I’m just doing the best I can, and I definitely appreciate you guys. You are a part of the team this year and always show us a lot of love and appreciation. Thank you for your support too.”
Former Storm head coach and now Dallas Wings’ coach Brian Agler talked after the game about his first season with the Wings.
“Well, usually I’m getting ready for playoffs right now, that’s number one. Apart from that, just the youth of the team. Coaching so many young players, which is refreshing in a lot of ways, but it is also challenging in a lot of ways when you are going up against a really good team. So that is part of the learning experience, the learning experience for them and helping them grow. Learning experience from a staff standpoint about this is who we have got and who we are working with and how can we get better. So, we are looking forward to the off-season, looking forward to getting some players healthy and back, and looking forward to free agency and the draft.”On the differences coaching this team this season
His thoughts on Skylar Diggins-Smith and playing without her this year.
“I have had several conversations about it. It was a different year for her as well and in a lot of ways it was probably the greatest year of her life, having her child and having a family, you can’t stick a price tag on it. How that will play in the future with her profession, that will be another way she will have to keep growing. She is a competitive person and so I know she is going to hurry to get back.”
He ended by talking about his hopes and goals for Arike next season.
“Well, I think she has made great strides playing with the ball in her hands. It’s a little bit more difficult and Skylar commented the other day on how much of a change that is going from an off guard to a point guard. So, I would say that is where she has made her growth, now she will go to a different team and play a different role there. Her going through this season, playing with this competition and everything that she has seen, she will have a chance to reflect on a lot of that and then make an improvement, ‘I could have done this better,’ and start working.”Coach Agler on his expectations for Arike Ogunbowale next season
Previous games between the Storm and Lynx
With the Wings out of their way, Seattle returns home to focus on their upcoming important playoff bout with the Minnesota Lynx. Before the playoffs start on Wednesday, let’s look back at the season series between the two teams.
Game 1: Seattle at Minnesota – 72-61 – Loss
Seattle lost their first game against the Minnesota Lynx this season which was also their second game of the 2019 season. The Storm were blitz by the Lynx in the first quarter 22-9; which was the major difference in the game. Natasha Howard and Jewell Loyd were the only two players to score in double figures for Seattle with 18 and 13 points respectively. The Lynx had four players score in double figures led by Odyssey Sims‘ 15 points. They also got huge contributions off the bench from Lexie Brown and Jessica Sheppard. The latter tore her ACL early in the season and missed the final two games against Seattle.
Game 2: Minnesota at Seattle – 84-77 – Win
A tough back and forth battle resulted in the Lynx’s first loss of the season. Seattle used a much more balanced attack with four players scoring in double figures. The Storm’s backcourt led the way with 36 combined points, as Jewell Loyd had 19 points and Jordin Canada had a then career-high 17 points. Rookie of the Year candidate Napheesa Collier led the Lynx with 17 points and Sylvia Fowles added 16.
Game 3: Seattle at Minnesota – 90-79 – Win
Jewell Loyd was out injured and it didn’t matter. Natasha Howard absolutely dominated this game with 33 points. The Storm got off to a strong start and led the Lynx by 17 points entering the 4th quarter before leaving Minnesota with an 11 point victory. Sami Whitcomb also came up huge with five three-pointers and 15 points in the game. The Lynx were led by the sharpshooting of Lexie Brown with 20 points off the bench. Sylvia Fowles chipped in 16 point as well. But it was the Storm’s hot three-point shooting 12-25 (48%) that was key to Seattle’s victory.
Game 4: Minnesota at Seattle – 82-74 – Win
Once again the Storm edged the Lynx in a critical game near the end of the season. With this win, it guaranteed that Seattle would hold home-court advantage if the teams were to finish the regular season with identical records, which is exactly what ended up happening. Seattle held a seven-point advantage after one and outscored the Lynx in three of the four quarters. The Storm used an extremely balanced attack with six players scoring in double figures including all five starters. Jordin Canada led the way with 14 points and six assists. Odyssey Sims went unconscious in the 2nd half, at one point scoring 18 straight points for the Lynx and finished with a game-high 30 points. But it wasn’t enough to beat Seattle who defeated Minnesota for a third time this season.
The Storm host the Minnesota Lynx on Wednesday, September 11th in Everett, WA at 7:00pm in a winner take all, single-elimination playoff game. If Seattle wins, they will advance to face off against either the 3rd seed LA Sparks or the 4th seed Las Vegas Aces.
Seattle went 1-2 against both LA and Las Vegas, but would likely prefer to face Las Vegas if possible. The Storm recently got destroyed by the Sparks this past Friday 102-68. They are more likely to face the Sparks as they would need to beat Minnesota and have the struggling Phoenix Mercury beat the Sky in Chicago in order for Seattle to face the Aces in the 2nd round.