(Seattle, WA) – For a second consecutive game, the Storm jumped all over their opponent and rode a strong first-half performance to another victory, 78-69. Seattle improves to 10-8 on the season and is currently the 6th overall seed in the WNBA.
As was the case on Friday against the Dallas Wings, the Storm were led in scoring by one of their bench players. But this time it was Crystal Langhorne. The 12-year veteran has seen her role on the team reduced the past two seasons. First losing minutes in 2018 to Natasha Howard and more recently losing playing time to second-year center Mercedes Russell. Still the consummate pro, Langhorne continued to work on her craft and contribute when called upon.
On Sunday afternoon, Langhorne led the team in scoring with 19 points. Most notably, was her ability to knock down the three-point shot. Something she rarely did in the first 11 seasons of her career. On Sunday, Langhorne knocked down 4-6 shots from beyond the three-point arc. The four made three’s is a new career-high in a single game. Which is even more impressive considering she had only made eight in her entire career prior to this season. Langhorne has now made 10 three’s on the season and talked about her added repertoire after the game.
“I didn’t go overseas so I had a lot of time to work on my game… Dan [Hughes] told me last year to start working on my threes. But I got hurt and came back and never really could get into it. So this offseason I really wanted to get into it.”Langhorne on adding the three-point shot to her skillset
The Storm had three players score in double figures with Langhorne (19), Natasha Howard (14) and Sami Whitcomb (11). Jordin Canada had just nine points in the game but came extremely close to her first career triple-double with 9 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists.
The Liberty only had one player score in double digits, All-Star forward Kia Nurse who scored 19 points in the loss. A huge reason the Storm were victorious is that they limited Tina Charles to just nine points on 2-15 (13%) shooting. When New York beat Seattle earlier this month, Charles scored a game-high 26 points.
I asked Coach Hughes after the game if he felt that was the biggest difference between the two games.
“It sure helped. Sometimes you’re lucky. She had some good looks, but sometimes players miss shots. Last game, she certainly didn’t miss very many. But we definitely worked at it. We played really hard, we had a lot of aggressive congestion to her. We wanted it to be diverse and I thought (our defense) was diverse.”Coach Hughes on limiting Tina Charles to just 9 points this game
The Storm jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead on back-to-back three-pointers from Alysha Clark and Sami Whitcomb. Seattle would build a 12 point lead in the opening quarter but New York cut it to single digits by the end of the quarter. The New York Liberty took advantage of several calls from the refs. New York went 10-10 from the foul line in the first quarter. By comparison, Seattle had zero free throw attempts. Seattle led 27-20 after one.
The Storm were able to extend their lead in the 2nd quarter to 20 points with a barrage of three-pointers. However, New York rallied late in the quarter with Kia Nurse doing much of the damage. Nurse had seven of the Liberty’s ten points in the second quarter. Seattle would take a 43-30 lead at the half.
The story of the game was the Storm’s three-point shooting versus the Liberty’s ability to get to the foul line. New York was able to stay close in the game with all of their free-throw attempts. They were 13-14 from the foul line in the first half. Meanwhile, Seattle had zero free-throw attempts. Seattle was able to counter that deficit by going 9-17 from beyond the arc while the Liberty were 1-6 at the half. The Storm would finish the game with 13 three’s made compared to the Liberty’s four.
Crystal Langhorne had a huge game off the bench for Seattle. Not just the scoring but there was a string of plays in the third quarter where she had a huge block and followed that up with an offensive rebound where she immediately then drew a foul against the Liberty.
It wasn’t until 3:40 left in the third quarter, the Storm finally got to the foul line when the Liberty picked up their 5th team foul of the quarter.
In total, the Liberty held a 26 to six edge in free throw attempts in the game. The Liberty went 23-26 and the Storm went 5-6. New York outscored Seattle by 18 at the foul line.
“I’m concerned [about the free throw disparity]. After every game we look at the free throw rate. We consistently have a margin and separation that we win by. So it’s a concern to me. I didn’t want to get tied up in the officiating, I just wanted our players to play through it.”Coach Dan Hughes on the free throw disparity
Crystal Langhorne also talked about the foul difference after the game.
“We talked about how we needed to stop fouling because that’s where they were getting most of their points, but I didn’t realize that it was that much of a difference.”
The Storm’s defense frustrated the Liberty throughout the third quarter holding them to just 13 points and outscoring the Liberty 23-13 which allowed Seattle to take a 66-43 lead into the 4th quarter.
The last time these two teams met about 10 days ago, the Storm blew a 10 point 4th quarter lead and lost to the Liberty by one 84-83. There would be no let-up in this game but the Liberty definitely made a run. New York outscored Seattle 26-12 in the final quarter but it wasn’t enough to overcome the 23 point deficit.
Liberty Coach Katie Smith was disappointed in her team’s performance in the game.
“We didn’t show up. We knew what we were going to see and we know how they play. We didn’t handle their pressure and turned the ball over too much. We gave them offensive rebounds and basically spotted them 10 points to start the game. It went downhill from there. I thought our second crew in the second half played a little harder, but definitely disappointed in our effort and our focus to start games. Coming off of two blowout losses … when we show up like that, it’s disappointing.”
For the Liberty, it was all about falling behind early in the first-half that was the difference in the game. All-Star Kia Nurse spoke about that after the game.
“We got pretty much all of the shots that we wanted to and got really good looks. In the first half, there was a bit of a lid on the basket and missed some easy ones that we usually wouldn’t miss. That kind of led to that hole so it was hard to dig ourselves out of it. I think in the second half we had a chance and just needed to execute things a little bit better.”Kia Nurse on falling behind early in the game to Seattle.
Jewell Loyd Update
After the game, I asked Coach Hughes about the status of Jewell Loyd. He said she is progressing, but still hasn’t practiced with the team yet. The hope is that she can begin practice possibly this upcoming week or the following week. But that she will need to practice before she can play in a game. It does not appear likely that she will return for either game this week at this time.
The Natasha Howard Situation
Reports came out over the weekend that the Seattle Storm and the WNBA will be investigating the allegations that Natasha Howard committed domestic violence against her wife.
Co-Owner Lisa Brummel and CEO/GM Alisha Valavanis put out a joint statement this weekend.
“The organization is aware of the recent allegations against Natasha. We are in communication with the league and looking into them.”
Despite some online backlash, Natasha Howard played and started in the game for Seattle. Howard finished the game with 14 points, three rebounds and three steals.
Howard was never arrested, nor were criminal charges filed against her. It is possible that the league will step in and suspend Howard for an undetermined amount of games later this year. However, they have yet to suspend Riquona Williams (Los Angeles Sparks) or Odyssey Sims (Minnesota Lynx).
Williams was arrested on domestic violence charges earlier this year where police state she hit her ex-partner multiple times in the head and pulled a gun out on her.
Sims was arrested on June 6th for driving under the influence. She was caught speeding and swerving in and out of lanes when she was pulled over. She blew a .206 blood-alcohol level which is more than double the legal limit of .08.
Media inquired about a comment from Natasha Howard after the Liberty game and was told there would be no further comment at this time on the situation.
Seattle has a challenging week ahead with two tough games. They first do battle against the Minnesota Lynx (10-7) in Minnesota on Wednesday before returning to Seattle to face off against UW’s own Kelsey Plum and the Las Vegas Aces. After a slow start, the Aces now hold the league’s best record at 11-5.