(Seattle, WA) – The Seattle Storm finally got back to their winning ways Friday night against the Dallas Wings in a 95-81 blowout victory. The final score was not indicative of how the game played out as the Storm dominated wire to wire leading by as many as 28 points in the game.
Seattle used a balanced attack both from the starters and off the bench to secure the win. The Storm had five players score in double figures led by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ 18 points off the bench. Jordin Canada (14), Natasha Howard (14), Mercedes Russell (13) and Sami Whitcomb (12) were the other four players to hit double digits. The bench totaled 36 points and outscored the Wing’s bench 36-21. Seattle also had 28 assists and 14 steals in the victory.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak and came after six days rest for the team who hadn’t played since last Friday, July 5th. The rest was absolutely necessary as the Storm’s schedule was front-loaded throughout the first part of the season having them play more games than any other team in the league. The extra practice time and rest were absolutely noticeable from the opening minutes of the game.
“Having a chance to have a week of practice is rare in the WNBA but I thought it was really good for us in a lot of ways. I think you saw the fruits of it on the court today… You look at the assists, and you have to look no further than Jordin Canada. She had 12 assists and zero turnovers. I don’t know how many [stat sheets] I’ve looked at over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen that number.”Coach Dan Hughes reflects on his team’s performance after getting six days rest
The Storm got off to a very hot start, knocking down four three-pointers to begin the first quarter including three by Sami Whitcomb. Seattle was on fire shooting 12-16 (75%) from field goal range and 4-5 (80%) from downtown.
Sami Whitcomb was all over the place in the first quarter, scoring nine points and getting two assists, two steals, and two rebounds early on.
Seattle’s defense was equally as impressive in the opening quarter. Jordin Canada and Sami Whitcomb were tenacious in their defense, forcing five of the Storm’s seven steals they had in the first.
With a barrage of three-pointers and non-stop hustle defense the Storm were able to get out to a 33-13 lead after one.
While the Storm’s hot shooting cooled off a little bit, their defense remained strong limiting the Wings to just 29 points total in the first half. The Storm carried a 52-29 lead into half-time.
Most notably the Storm held rookie superstar Arike Ogunbowale scoreless throughout the first half. The defense focused on limiting her touches and making shots incredibly difficult when she did get hands on the ball.
Ogunbowale would break out in the second half to score a game-high 23 points. Dallas had three other players score in double figures: Glory Johnson (18 points including 4-5 from 3-pt range), Allisha Gray (14) and Kaela Davis gave them 11 points off the bench.
The Wings did have their best shooting night of their season, shooting 31-58 (53%) and 12-19 (62%) from beyond the arc in the loss to Seattle, but Coach Brian Agler was not particularly satisfied with that.
“If you want to look at it that way you can. Those are positive things and in our situation you have to build on the positives. I look at the bigger picture of trying to establish championship culture, championship traits and championship characteristics. Obviously in the first 10 minutes of the game we didn’t have that and we didn’t have long stretches of that throughout the game. That’s been my emphasis and from this game it looks like we have a long way to go. In other games it looks like we’re getting closer so our season is a little bit of a roller coaster.”Wings Coach Brian Agler on if he was happy about the team’s shooting in this game
The Storm really took control of this game in the third quarter going up by as many as 28 points multiple times throughout the period. The shots kept falling for Seattle who shot 61% from beyond the arc and knocked down 14 three-pointers in the game.
Not surprisingly, the 4th quarter was Seattle’s weakest where they played mostly bench players. To the Wing’s credit, they fought hard after going down nearly 30 points and cut Seattle’s lead to 10 with a minute left in the game. The Storm had eight turnovers in the quarter more than the six turnovers they had in the first three quarters combined. Dallas outscored Seattle 28-17 in the final quarter.
The Seattle Storm were one of the big winners once the All-Star starters were announced Thursday afternoon. The WNBA announced that both Natasha Howard and Jewell Loyd were named to the 2019 All-Star team. On top of that, they were both rated high enough and tallied enough votes to both be named starters of their respective All-Star squads. It’s a huge accomplishment for both players. This is Natasha’s first All-Star nomination of her career and it is Jewell Loyd’s second. Loyd was also named to the All-Star team in 2018.
Howard has been named WNBA player of the week on multiple occasions this season and is currently one of the favorites to possibly win the league’s MVP award. Jewell Loyd was averaging roughly 17 points per game before an ankle injury derailed her season. Loyd is expected to return to the Storm this season but has missed five games and her return date is unknown at this time.
As of now, the Storm have the 2nd most All-Stars on one team with two representatives. The Las Vegas Aces, which is also the host city for this year’s All-Star game, has the most with three players being voted in, Liz Cambage, A’Ja Wilson, and Kayla McBride.
When asked if he hoped any other Storm player could be nominated to make the All-Star squad, Coach Dan Hughes mentioned Alysha Clark.
“I would love to see Alysha Clark get more national recognition for the basketball player that she is. The fact that she has not been on the All-Defensive team through the years is a travesty. She impacts the game from a defensive standpoint at an extremely high level.”Coach Hughes on his hopes that Alysha Clark will get her recognition one day
In a season where the Storm lost MVP Breanna Stewart to a torn Achilles and Sue Bird to a knee surgery before the season had even started, the wins and losses are less important for Seattle this year. But what is incredibly important for the future of this team is to develop the players that are still available and to help determine which players to build around as we enter another era of Storm basketball.
The most noticeable development has been of Natasha Howard. Who has turned her Most Improved Player award season into a borderline Most Valuable Player type season. Howard is averaging 17.6 PPG and 8.5 rebounds per game; which is Top 4 in the league in both categories. Howard’s play has been recognized as she was nominated to her first All-Star team as well.
But beyond Howard, several other players have stepped up this season. Most notably in the sophomoric duo of Jordin Canada and Mercedes Russell. Both players have made large contributions to the team this season and both are legit candidates to win the Most Improved Player of the Year award in 2019.
Jordin Canada had a historic night Friday evening. She scored 14 points, but more impressively had 12 assists and zero turnovers. She also collected five steals. It was a career-high in assists and Canada’s first career double-double.
The 12 assists to zero turnovers is the third greatest assist-to-turnover ratio in WNBA league history per the Elias Sports Bureau. Seattle’s own Sue Bird had a game with 13 assists and zero turnovers on 09/01/2017. And Jennifer Rizzotti of the Cleveland Rockers had a game where she had 14 assists without a turnover on 06/21/2002. Credit to the Storm’s PR for pointing this out.
“I think that it was just a team effort with my teammates knocking down shots and me creating and putting them in positions to knock down those shots. I think this week helped us a lot to get back to the basics and our rhythm on offense and get back to being aggressive on the defensive end.”Jordin Canada on her historic performance on Friday
Mercedes Russell also had yet another strong game. She finished the game scoring 13 points and pulling down eight rebounds. Russell has scored in double figures in seven of the 16 games she’s played this season. She did not score in double figures at all during her rookie season.
Her ability to score has really allowed Seattle to compete despite lacking so much offensive firepower without Breanna Stewart. The Storm have won 5 of the 7 games in which Russell has scored ten or more points.
And this game also proved that it’s not just the youngest players making a difference. Sami Whitcomb and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis both had huge games Friday night against Dallas and if they can ever start contributing like they did tonight in a more consistent role than the Storm could be nearly impossible to defeat.
The Seattle Storm finish their six-game homestand with another game against the New York Liberty on Sunday afternoon, 4:00pm at UW Hec-Ed/Alaska Airline Arena. The Storm will be out for revenge as they dropped a heart breaker last week 84-83 to the Liberty despite leading by 10 points in the 4th quarter.