(Seattle, WA) – With Tuesday night’s loss to the Connecticut Sun, the Seattle Storm have now lost four out of their last five games. Not exactly the type of momentum you want to have heading into the playoffs in a couple of weeks. Connecticut dominated for most of the game, capitalizing on several costly turnovers by Seattle. The 89-70 loss was the third loss to Connecticut this season as the Sun were the only team to sweep the Storm in the regular season. Seattle dropped another game and now fall to the 7th seed after the Minnesota Lynx beat the Chicago Sky on Tuesday. Seattle continues to struggle offensively with just two players scoring in double figures. Jewell Loyd led the Storm with 18 points on a very efficient 7-11 FG shooting, including 4-5 from three-point range. Loyd knocked down her first three shots of the game which allowed Seattle to get out to an early 12-6 lead. Crystal Langhorne added 12 points off the bench, including a pair of three’s. Similar to Sunday’s game against Indiana, the Connecticut Sun would regroup after a timeout and go on their own 10-0 run to take a 16-12 lead over Seattle. They would never relinquish the lead after that and took a four-point lead, 24-20, into the 2nd quarter. The Sun held the advantage in several key statistics. But the two that really stood out were Connecticut’s 19-0 advantage in fast-break points and their 58-18 advantage for points in the paint. The 58 points in the paint are the most given up in Storm franchise history. Seattle was also out-rebounded 43-30. The Storm also committed more than twice as many turnovers than the Sun (17-8); which included 14 steals by Connecticut compared to just four for Seattle. All in all, the Storm were completely outplayed on Tuesday night. “It’s a big road win for us. Eighty-nine points for us on the road and we didn’t do it through the three ball and not really even through the foul line with 37 baskets made for us. The one that really jumps off the page is 58-18 in the paint. We played downhill, got the ball into the paint and finished around the rim so I’m really proud of them that we were in attack mode tonight. We were aggressive and got them on their heels. We just kept waiting for their big runs because we know they’re capable, but we just held them at bay. On a night when three, four and five (in the standings) lose – that was big for us because we picked up a game. It’s huge for us in the big picture.” Connecticut Head Coach Curt Miller To make matters worse, Seattle also really struggled from the foul line shooting just 47% on 9-19 foul shots. Despite all of these lopsided statistics, the Storm stayed competitive in the first half, trailing the Sun by just eight points 44-36 at the midway point. However, the wheels fell off the wagon in the third quarter. Seattle committed six turnovers in the period, which led to more transition baskets. The Sun would double up on the Storm outscoring Seattle 27-13 in the third. Seattle played well in the 4th quarter, outscoring the Sun 21-18 but it was too little, too late as the Storm trailed by as many as 26 points in the 2nd half. Connecticut was led by Alyssa Thomas who had a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds. She was also responsible for getting several of the Sun’s fast-break transition points. In total, the Sun had three players score in double figures and six players with eight points or more. Courtney Williams added 17 points and Jonquel Jones had ten points. “All game our defense was pretty bad. We talked about it in practice but to emulate that in game time with [Alyssa Thomas] bringing it up the floor is different. So that was half the battle.” Jewell Loyd on the team’s poor defense Natasha Howard had one of her worst games of the season finishing with just six points on 2-8 shooting from the floor. Coach Dan Hughes, felt like they’ve relied too heavily on Howard this season and that the entire team really needed to step up their effort. “The thing that has been our story has been what we do as a team. It has been about the next player up type of mentality. That is part of our story, there is no question. But we are at a point as we prepare for the playoffs and try to play well and we need to make sure we know who we are. That’s who we are and without it it’s not going to happen this year. We have to get back to a cohesive offensive and defensive structure that allows the totality of who we are to come out.” Coach Dan Hughes on needing everyone to step up as one unit After the game, Connecticut Sun Head Coach Curt Miller also talked about limiting Natasha Howard and forcing Seattle into several turnovers. “Individually, huge credit to Alyssa Thomas. We think she’s as a good of a defender as there is in the league. There was a real competitiveness between those two. We stayed in plays and we disrupted them. Last game we turned them over 27 times and tonight 17 so in our last two games — against a team I really have great respect for – we’ve turned them over 23 times on average. We just got them a little bit out of sync and made them have to play a little bit more out of system. And I thought we had a good night when they got out of system.” Sun Coach Curt Miller on their ability to stop Natasha Howard and create turnovers The Playoffs are almost here With the playoffs right around the corner, Seattle Coach Dan Hughes is noticing that these elite teams like Washington and Connecticut are really taking their games to a whole new level. And that the Storm have not yet been able to match that intensity and level of play. “These teams are raising it a little bit because they’re playing for position and they’re playing for the playoffs. You’re getting a true look at veterans playing at a very high level. I think we come out with the right intent, but we are learning a hard lesson which is how strong we have to be in what we do with each other when teams like that raise it a notch.” Coach Hughes on the elite teams taking their play to a new level One thing that should help Seattle turn the corner is the fact that they have beaten every single team in the league this season except for Connecticut. The team has already proven they have the ability to compete with just about everyone in the league. It’s just a matter of getting better on offense, correcting their defensive mistakes, limiting their turnovers and playing as a complete unit. “It does give us confidence. We feel like we can play with anyone in the league. Even the last game [against Connecticut], they stole that one from us. We are not playing too well right now but we have some time this week to get better and get back in the gym. ” Crystal Langhorne on the team’s confidence heading into the playoffs Trending in the Wrong Direction One interesting note is that the Seattle Storm are the only playoff team with a negative point differential. The four lottery teams all have a negative point differential: Indiana (-3.8), Dallas (-4.8), New York (-7.5) and Atlanta (-7.6). Seattle averages 74.1 points per game and gives up 74.7 points a game, good for a -0.6 point differential. The 74.1 points per game is the third-worst in the WNBA (ahead of only Dallas and Atlanta) and is 13.1 points lower than the 2018 Championship season. Up Next The Seattle Storm have one more home game this season on Sunday 09/01 against the Atlanta Dream. They then finish the regular season with three straight road games against the Phoenix Mercury, Los Angles Sparks, and Dallas Wings. The game against the Mercury will likely determine whether Seattle finishes 7th or 8th. The Storm may need to go 3-1 or even 4-0 in order to secure the 6th seed and a home playoff game. The 5th seed is just about out of reach at this point as Seattle would need to finish 4-0 and have Chicago finish the season 0-4 in order to climb up into the 5th seed. Ultimately, the lower seed may be what’s best for the organization long-term as falling down to the 8th seed would allow Seattle to draft 5th overall in the 2020 WNBA Draft.
(Seattle, WA) – The Seattle Storm clinched a playoff spot on Sunday when the New York Liberty lost to the Washington Mystics 101-72. This is no doubt a huge accomplishment for the defending champions after their entire season was thrown completely off course before the season even began; once MVP Breanna Stewart tore her Achilles tendon while playing overseas in Russia. And then it was announced that Sue Bird would miss all or most of the 2019 season with knee surgery. Most media outlets predicted the Storm would not make the playoffs. Not only have the Storm made the playoffs, but they still have a great chance to claim a first-round home playoff game. “The season started by reshuffling the deck (after the injuries to Stewie and Bird). There’s a lot of people out there that didn’t think we were a playoff team. We thought we were. It’s gratifying (to earn the playoff spot). We’re still learning things. Things don’t come easy for this team and we try to be honest about that. That there’s going to be some ups and downs to this season. But I’m very proud that we are a playoff team and now we’re battling for the best position we can. The key I want is for us to be playing good basketball by the end of these next two weeks. When we go into the playoffs, we can win on the road. We would love to be at home as I told the team afterwards. If we could earn the ability to play at home that would be a major success for us.” Storm Coach Dan Hughes on clinching the playoff spot Unfortunately, the Storm’s playoff seeding took a huge hit on Sunday as they weren’t able to overcome a horrible shooting night as they fell to the Indiana Fever 63-54. The 54 points were not only a season-low for total points scored but you have to go back to Jewell Loyd‘s rookie season, five years ago, to find another game where they scored fewer than that. Sunday’s game was their worst scoring game since June 9th, 2015 where they lost 68-45 to the (then) Tulsa Shock (Dallas Wings). “You look at the final score and it was just a consistent defensive effort throughout against a team that’s high-powered offensively. (Seattle) does a good job moving the basketball and can create some problems when they go small. I thought we stayed disciplined throughout and didn’t make the same mistakes twice. The best part of that is we married it to some concepts offensively by playing to Teaira (McCowan) and playing off of her. (Tiffany) Mitchell gets a wide-open layup late because they didn’t want to leave Teaira. And (Teaira) is a willing passer. It’s a tough environment to play in coming off of a tough loss in L.A. It was nice to see us bounce back and be the aggressor.” Indiana Fever Head Coach Pokey Chatman Seattle jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the first three minutes of the game after back-to-back three-pointers by Natasha Howard and it was all downhill from there. The Fever would quickly call a timeout and settled down. Indiana then went on their own 6-0 run. Indiana would regain the lead on a Kelsey Mitchell fast-break to put the Fever up 16-14. Indiana finished the first quarter on a 16-4 run to take an 18-14 lead after one. Seattle would never regain the lead after that. The Fever jumped all over the Storm to begin the second quarter on a 9-4 run to go up nine 27-18. The Fever would extend their lead to 11 points before Seattle made a small run at the end of the quarter to cut Indiana’s lead to seven points at half time, 33-26. Seattle shot just 24% from the floor and only had two assists in the first half. The Storm had absolutely no rhythm offensively and their guards could not buy a basket. Seattle’s four guards (Jewell Loyd, Jordin Canada, Sami Whitcomb, and Shavonte Zellous) shot a combined 2-19 from the floor (10.5%). In general, the entire team struggled mightily with their shot. It was one of the worst shooting performances I’ve seen since I started covering the team five years ago as they shot 18-63 good for just 28.6%. This game was a stark contrast from last Sunday’s performance against the Minnesota Lynx where six different players scored in double figures, including all five starters. This Sunday, just one Storm member scored in double figures, Natasha Howard had 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds. She also had three steals and three blocks, including an absolutely vicious block on Kennedy Burke. Howard continues to make a strong case for defensive player of the year. And while the Storm’s defense was quite strong holding the Fever to just 63 points, 6’7″ rookie Teaira McCowan absolutely dominated with 22 points and a career-high 19 rebounds. She also added two blocks and was absolutely a staunch presence in the middle of the paint, limiting Seattle’s scoring opportunities. “I was just working hard like normal. I try to go out and get every (rebound) to get my team more shots and get us out in transition. That’s what I tried to do. That’s what I like to do best – get my guards out to get quick buckets then turn around and we’re back on defense.” Teaira McCowan on her career-high 19 rebounds McCowan looked like everything she was projected to be as a potential number one overall pick; she ended up going third overall to Indiana in the 2019 WNBA Draft. But you can see the potential. She was unstoppable in Seattle on the offensive end, cleaning up the glass, and keeping the Storm out of the paint. I had nightmare flashbacks to McCowan’s Mississippi State college days when she absolutely dominated Kelsey Plum and the Washington Huskies in Plum’s final collegiate game in the Sweet 16 of the March Madness Tournament. “We’re asking her to guard fours. And they started the game with Mercedes (Russell), who has the height with her, but she probably played 11 or 12 minutes guarding (Crystal) Langhorne or (Natasha) Howard, which is really tough because she has to play the angles. And it’s a different set of plays so, for me, that shows her growth. Previously when that happened she was in foul trouble (against smaller teams) so that’s her growth. When she’s not on the floor and in foul trouble, we struggle. You can see her confidence and you can see the players trusting her more and more and wanting her to be that piece in the middle.” Indiana Fever Coach Pokey Chatman The Fever had two other players score in double-figures, Candice Dupree added 12 points and Kelsey Mitchell added 13 points off the bench and was the only Fever bench player to score. K. Mitchell also had the best plus/minus of any player with a plus 16. She also knocked down several key shots in the 2nd half whenever the Storm attempted to make a run. Offensive Woes Per the Storm’s PR, The game marks the second time this season that Seattle has held an opponent to 63 points and lost. This season, Seattle is 3-2 when holding opponents to 63 or fewer points. The rest of the WNBA is 25-3 in such games. This was also the 2nd time this season the team shot under 30% from the floor and it really highlights the Storms struggles to score this season. The lack of offensive firepower is where Seattle clearly misses Breanna Stewart the most. While Natasha Howard, has done an incredible job of filling in for the MVP as Seattle’s top scoring option this year; in general, it just hasn’t been enough. Jewell Loyd has not been the same since returning from her severe ankle injury and continues to struggle with consistency. Not terribly surprising, both second-year players Jordin Canada and Mercedes Russell have also clearly struggled with scoring each and every game. You’ll see them break out for 12-15 points one game and the next game maybe it’s 4-6. Playoff Seeding Update Despite the disappointing loss, the Storm remain in the 6th seed and have clinched a playoff spot. However, today’s loss was extremely costly when looking at results around the league. The team right above Seattle in the 5th seed, the Chicago Sky (18-11) and the team right below Seattle nipping at their heels, the Minnesota Lynx (7th seed), both won on Sunday. The Lynx (15-15) are now just 1/2 game behind Seattle (15-14). If the Storm and the Lynx remain in the 6th and 7th overall seeds at season’s end, then they will face one another in the first round of the playoffs. Seattle will want to keep the 6th seed in order to have home-court advantage for that game. Up Next The Storm have a quick turnaround as they face the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night in Seattle. Seattle will be seeking revenge as they recently lost a heart-breaker as they choked away a seven-point lead with about 80 seconds left in the game on 8/16 in Connecticut. The Sun are the only WNBA team the Storm haven’t beaten this season and this will be the last opportunity to get a win against them this year.
(Seattle, WA) – After a heartbreaking loss to the Connecticut Sun on Friday that saw the Storm choke away a seven-point lead with under 90 seconds to play, Seattle bounced back strong in an impressive 82-74 victory over the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday. The Storm never trailed in this game, getting out to an 11-0 start before Minnesota’s rookie Napheesa Collier would score the first points for the Lynx. “We’ve been playing a lot of basketball lately and… I’ve been around enough to know that sometimes teams respond to [hard losses like the previous game against Connecticut] like the way we did tonight and sometimes they kind of feel sorry for themselves. I’m just really glad they responded.” Coach Dan Hughes on the team responding well after the tough loss Seattle was firing on all cylinders as six players scored in double-figures led by Jordin Canada‘s 14 points, six assists, and three steals. The most promising thing I saw from Canada was her ability to take a couple of dribbles in from beyond the three-point line and knock down the pull-up jumper 15-17 ft from the basket. This is not something we’ve seen Canada do consistently yet in her WNBA career, but the more comfortable she becomes knocking down the mid-range jumper the more difficult it’ll be to defend her. Canada is already excellent at attacking the hoop despite her diminutive size. If she can add the pull-up jumper to her repertoire she is going to become an elite point guard in this league. But it wasn’t just Canada, this one really was a team effort. All five starters scored in double figures and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis also added 11 points off the bench (all in the first half). It was great to see Jewell Loyd look a lot more like her true self; something we haven’t seen a lot of since she returned from injury. Loyd finished the game with 13 points, five rebound, and three assists. She was aggressive getting to the basket and shot a much more respectable 45% from the floor (5-11). “I feel good. I’m getting back into my rhythm. I think that’s been evident in the last couple of games. Even on the road trip, I think we see that I’m moving better and things like that. In reality, I think that I am in the best shape I have ever been in right now because I’ve been doing a lot of cardio and focusing on my diet. I feel good.” Jewell Loyd on recovering from her severe ankle injury Natasha Howard was limited with foul trouble all game long but definitely had a big impact while she was on the court. Most notably was after she picked up her 4th foul with about three and half minutes to play in the third quarter with the Storm up 14 points. The Lynx would go on to outscore Seattle by 10 over the final three minutes to cut Seattle’s lead to just four, 67-63, entering the 4th quarter. Howard finished the game with 13 points, six rebounds, two blocks, and two steals and was able to play most of the 4th quarter which allowed the Storm to really separate themselves from the Lynx in the final minutes of the game. Alysha Clark and Mercedes Russell each contributed 10 points apiece to round out the starting five. She’s on Fire! If you grew up in the 1990’s you’re probably familiar with the widely popular arcade game NBA Jam. The game was notorious for crazy slam dunks and outrageous shooting. The game may be most known for catching “fire”. When the same player scored three baskets in a row without giving up any points they would catch fire. Once your player was on fire you could do anything on the basketball court. Drain 30-foot three-pointers, dunk from the 3-point line, block every single shot, etc. What does NBA Jam have to do with the Seattle Storm/Minnesota Lynx game you might be asking? Well in the third quarter of Sunday’s game Odyssey Sims was on fire. Sims scored 18 straight points against the Storm. She knocked down three’s, attacked the basket, and knocked down the mid-range pull-up jump shots. In total, Sims shot 8-8 from the floor in the third quarter. It was like watching something out of a video game. No other Minnesota Lynx player scored in the third quarter until Danielle Robinson made a jump shot with just two minutes remaining in the period. Sims was very close to tying the all-time record for most points in a quarter of a WNBA game. The record is held by Diana Taurasi who scored 22 points in a game against the Los Angeles Sparks in 2006. Napheesa Collier (16 points) and Sylvia Fowls (11 points) were the only other players to score in double-figures for Minnesota. Seattle also limited them to just four points total between the two of them in the 2nd half. “I thought Seattle played well. Seattle plays as a unit and they execute their stuff really, really well. They play really hard and obviously their fans are highly engaged. They’re hard to play against. Odyssey Sims tried to put the team on her back, but we just didn’t get enough help from other people.” Minnesota Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve Records and Milestones Natasha Howard had two more steals in this game which gives her 63 steals on the season and set an all-time Seattle Storm franchise record for most steals in a single season. “[Natasha Howard] is probably the Defensive Player of the Year. I was thinking who would I vote for, and I’d vote for her. As a coach there are certain things that you watch… you see a crowd rebounding and she makes some tough crowd rebounds… Natasha goes into a crowd and it’s like she’s bigger than she is. Along with all of the great offensive things, I don’t know if anybody has done as much for their team defensively as Natasha.” Coach Dan Hughes on the defensive presence of Natasha Howard Jordin Canada is also likely to surpass the previous franchise record this season as she has 55 steals with six more games to play. Canada and Howard both lead the league in steals at around 2.3 steals per game. Crystal Langhorne also set a record, earning her 1,000th career rebound as a member of the Seattle Storm. She joins Lauren Jackson, Camille Little, and Sue Bird as the only other players in franchise history to reach that mark. Langhorne also knocked down two more three-pointers in this game, bringing her season total to 15, which now nearly doubles her career total from her first 11 seasons in the WNBA (8 made 3’s heading into 2019). Playoff Seeding and Tie-Breakers While the Seattle Storm have not yet clinched a playoff berth this season, they are very close to doing so. The win over Minnesota was particularly important because it gives the Storm a significant advantage in their head-to-head matchup against the Lynx. Seattle won the season-series 3-1 against the Lynx. The victory keeps the Storm in the 6th seed and knocks the Lynx down to the 8th seed. Both teams are unlikely to fall out of the playoff race as they have a significant lead over the 9th seed Indiana Fever (9-17) with less than eight games left to play. For the Storm, they are likely to finish between the 6th and 8th seed, with an outside shot at reclaiming the 5th seed if the Chicago Sky were to falter down the stretch. The late-game collapse against the Connecticut Sun on Friday did major damage to the Storm’s chances of earning the 4th or 5th seed that are currently held by the Los Angeles Sparks and the Chicago Sky. The Sky already own the head-to-head tie-breaker over the Storm which currently gives them a two-game lead over Seattle. The Storm will face the Sparks in one of their final games of the season in Los Angeles and must win that game if they have any hope of leapfrogging the Sparks in the standings by season’s end. Seattle will also face off against the Phoenix Mercury in the final week of the season with the winner likely not only landing the higher seed but also homecourt advantage in the first round of the WNBA Playoffs. As a 5th or 6th seed, the Storm will host an elimination game in Seattle. If they fall down to the 7th or 8th seed they will play all their playoff games on the road unless they advance through the first two rounds to the WNBA semi-finals. Up Next The Seattle Storm get a nice break before hosting the Indiana Fever at Alaska Airlines Arena on Sunday, August 25th at 4:00pm.
(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.
(Seattle, WA) – They weren’t supposed to be this good. They weren’t supposed to be competitive this season without Breanna Stewart or Sue Bird. The national media predicted they’d finish in either 9th or 10th place. I figured they’d probably finish around 7th. And yet here they are, 20 games into the season with a 12-8 record. Good for 4th best in the WNBA. The 12 wins ties Connecticut for the most wins in the entire league. After a gutsy 69-66 victory over one of the best teams in the league, the Las Vegas Aces, I’m convinced that the Seattle Storm actually have a legit chance to win the WNBA Championship this season; despite the insane season with so many devastating injuries to this team. And this isn’t just wishful thinking. The Storm have proven through 20 games that they can compete with just about anybody. Who are some of the likely favorites to win it all this year? The Washington Mystics? Seattle went into DC overcame a 14 point deficit and beat the Mystics 74-71 on June 14th. The Los Angeles Sparks? The Storm beat them by 22 points on June 21st. The Minnesota Lynx? Seattle’s beaten them twice this season including this week 90-79 in Minnesota. The Phoenix Mercury? The Storm took them out in the home opener back on May 25th. And Friday night, they defeated the Las Vegas Aces 69-66 in what was likely their worst offensive game of the season. The Storm have beaten every single team in the WNBA this season except the Connecticut Sun, and they’ll get two more opportunities to do so later this year. Has this team been frustrating to watch at times, especially on the offensive end of the court? Absolutely! But there’s a very famous sports quote by Paul “Bear” Bryant that has been reiterated over the past several decades. Simply put, “Defense wins championships!” Last season the Storm were #1 overall in offensive rating but they were also #2 in defensive rating (101.5). This season, their defense is significantly better (93.8) and they are still #2 overall in defensive rating in 2019. What does this mean? Well, the Storm are a lot more like the 2018 version of the Atlanta Dream than they are the 2018 version of the Seattle Storm. That means they aren’t going to be the favorites to win it all, but they might be good enough to reach the semi-finals and give themselves a shot to get back to the WNBA Finals. Seattle is winning a lot of basketball games on the backs of their defense. And with the team shooting just 28% for the game, they defeated the Las Vegas Aces with their ability to defend some of the game’s most elite players. Seattle collected 18 steals in the game Friday night setting a new franchise record. Their high energy and active hands forced Las Vegas into multiple turnovers throughout the game. Jordin Canada led Seattle with five steals and Natasha Howard added four. Howard had a monster game overall with 21 points, 10 rebounds, six blocked shots, four steals, and three assists. Jewell Loyd talked about Howard’s performance after this game. “I think it’s pretty simple. She’s the MVP. Nobody else is doing what she’s doing. She comes out and gives 100% on both ends of the floor. She’s not just putting up points, she’s also defending, rebounding, everything. She’s the MVP.” Jewell Loyd believes Natasha Howard has stepped right into Stewie’s shoes as the league’s MVP this season Seattle had just three players score in double figures with Sami Whitcomb (14 points, 5 rebounds) and Crystal Langhorne (11 points, 3 rebounds) joining Howard. Las Vegas also had three players score in double figures with Liz Cambage leading the way for the Aces with 16 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks. Kayla McBride (11 points) and Kelsey Plum (10 points) were the other two players to score 10 or more. Both teams had 34 rebounds each. Something Coach Dan Hughes was really proud of considering the Aces lead the WNBA in rebounding at 39.6 per game. Seattle won this game on two key stats. They held a massive 18-7 edge in steals and they went 20-20 from the foul line compared to Vegas who shot 9-14. “We had to find ways to win the game. [Our 18 steals] really created opportunities for us. We also rebounded evenly with them and they are a very dominant rebounding team. And we used the free throw line, which is very typical of what we try to do. I thought that was really key in the fourth quarter.” Coach Dan Hughes on the importance of rebounding and defense in the win The first quarter was incredibly sloppy by both teams. The Storm committed seven turnovers and the Aces were even worse with eight. Seattle used lots of defensive pressure to force Vegas into several difficult shots and bad passes. Despite an ice-cold 1-6 shooting start to the game, Seattle took the early lead on two Sami Whitcomb three-pointers. Seattle was able to extend their lead to double digits before finishing the quarter up eight, 21-13. Back to back three’s by Sugar Rodgers and Kelsey Plum early in the second quarter helped cut Seattle’s 11 point lead to five, 24-19. Vegas’ defense was extremely stingy in the second allowing the Aces to tie the game up at 27-27. The Storm were able to go on a run of their own with back-to-back three’s by Alysha Clark. Both teams made big runs in the second quarter with Las Vegas tying the game and Seattle retaking a 10 point lead. A couple of turnovers by both teams would end the 2nd half. Jordin Canada made an incredible leaping steal on a Kelsey Plum pass but unfortunately was not able to complete the layup. Dearica Hamby was inserted into the starting lineup over Kelsey Plum to start the 2nd half and it immediately paid dividends with Hamby scoring the first five points for Vegas. The Aces started the third quarter on a 7-2 run. Sadly, A’ja Wilson appeared to roll her ankle midway through the third and went down in pain. She would need to be helped off the court, into the locker room and would not return to the game. Kelsey Plum did a terrific job in the third, scoring five points and keeping the Las Vegas Aces close. Carolyn Swords knocked down a three-pointer at the buzzer but it was later ruled no good. Seattle took a 55-49 lead into the 4th and final frame. Violating that Shot Clock! For a second consecutive game, the Storm had an awful final quarter. Against Minnesota on Wednesday, Seattle nearly blew a 17 point 4th quarter lead allowing the Lynx to get back within one before finishing the game on a 10-0 run. On Friday night against Las Vegas, Seattle was held without a field goal for the final seven minutes and 13 seconds of the 4th quarter. Somehow, someway, with excellent defense and quality free-throw shooting, they managed to hang on for the win. Seattle’s offense was ugly. They had a numerous amount of shot-clock violations throughout the game. It felt like it was around 10, but it had to have been at least five or six times. The offense was stagnant and didn’t move the ball. They stopped being aggressive. They stopped attacking the basket and they would just dribble around the three-point line until they would chuck up a low percentage shot with a hand in their face. Now Las Vegas is extremely lengthy, especially with 6’8″ Liz Cambage. And the Aces are the best defensive team in the league with a defensive rating of 90.9. But Seattle really needs to review this game film and correct this moving forward because this was extremely poor offensive execution on their part. Howard emphasized Seattle’s defense down the stretch. “It was a struggle. If we didn’t score then they didn’t score. We made sure that we got stops at the other end and push it through to the last second.” Natasha Howard on the difficult 4th quarter Clutch Down the Stretch I think a lot of credit needs to go to Jordin Canada for her clutch free-throw shooting in the final minute of this game. Canada had an abysmal shooting night, going 1-12. and 0-5 from beyond the arc. But with less than one minute left to play in the game and Seattle leading by just one possession, Canada was fouled twice in the final 30 seconds. She went up to the foul line and calmly sank all four of her free throws. It wasn’t that long ago in a game against the Phoenix Mercury where Canada had an opportunity to send the game into overtime by sinking free throws in the final seconds of the game. But she missed and Phoenix escaped Seattle with a victory. On Friday night, there would be no repeat of that as Canada helped secure the victory for Seattle. Aces Reactions Overall Vegas was happy they battled hard but disappointed with their poor first quarter and sloppy turnovers (21 total). “We just had to keep working. Once we put ourselves in a hole … I don’t know what it’s going to take to not use the first quarter as a warmup and not be ready to play. Coming out like that and having 21 turnovers – we know we’re not going to win games like that no matter how hard we play. We just have to work it out.” Liz Cambage on the game Kelsey Plum echoed those statements after the game. “I’m proud of the way we fought. We had some shot clock violations against them and got the ball back where we wanted. We just couldn’t finish. That goes back to getting off to a better start, though. The little things – turnovers and things like that – we have to clean up. They’re a very good team, especially at home. Credit to them. They just played better than us.” Plum on the game Coach Bill Laimbeer gave an update on A’ja Wilson’s injury after the game. “It appears it’s a high-ankle sprain so it hopefully won’t be too bad. And the referees didn’t call that foul on the breakaway layup and her arm was all scratched up. How they can swallow the whistle at that point in the game just because there’s a big crowd yelling … it doesn’t make any sense. You can’t treat the players that way.” All-Star Weekend Coming Up Both Natasha Howard and Jewell Loyd were named as starters to the All-Star team this season. Jewell Loyd said she hopes she gets paired up with Howard because she was left out last year, where one team took her teammates Bird and Stewart and she was left on the other team by herself. I asked Jewell if it was a priority for her to return to WNBA court action before the All-Star game so that she wasn’t replaced by another player. “At the end of the day I have to protect my body and make sure that I’m able to play because I expect to play for a long time. So I don’t want to risk anything. But I think it showed the respect everyone has for my game early on and it’s actually very humbling for me… It’s an All-Star game so you never know what you’re going to get. I might come out dunking.” Loyd on her thought process to get back this season and before the All-Star game Up Next These same two teams rematch in Las Vegas this Tuesday 07/23 at 7:00pm. The game will air nationally on ESPN2. The winner of this game will win the season series, so that game will be critical. After this game, the All-Star Weekend takes place on 07/27.
(Minneapolis, MN) – The Seattle Storm went into Minnesota and got an impressive road victory Wednesday 90-79. And yet a 4th quarter collapse nearly ruined what was an otherwise exciting win led by a career night from Natasha Howard. Howard absolutely dominated the Lynx, scoring a career-high 33 points on 12-21 FG shooting. She also had seven rebounds and three blocked shots in the game. Coach Cheryl Reeve didn’t have the answers but gave Howard her credit for the performance. “She’s a great player, that the GM traded. I knew that would be a difficult matchup for Phee (Napheesa Collier). This was not one of Phee’s better nights. Natasha Howard is a fast player, dynamic player. 28% three-ball, step-back threes…she was feeling herself. Not a great matchup. Natasha is a tough matchup for most people but, obviously for Phee that was challenging. Coach Reeve (also Minnesota’s GM) takes a shot at herself while praising Natasha Howard The Storm had four players score in double figures in another balanced team effort. The other players were Sami Whitcomb (15 points), Alysha Clark (12) and Jordin Canada (12). Whitcomb also had a career-high dishing out eight assists. Clark also became the 7th player in franchise history to collect 300 assists in her career. Whitcomb talked about getting open to hit her five threes in this game. It’s sort of the way they defend a bit. They try not to, they tend to keep the bigs off a little and they like to keep them in the paint a bit more so if you can really use the screen, and we have some really great screeners, you have that split second, that one second to get the shot off and that sort of suits my game.” Sami Whitcomb on how Minnesota was guarding her in the game and leaving her open And while Mercedes Russell didn’t score in double figures in this game, she still made a huge impact. Russell finished the game with seven points, nine rebounds, and three blocked shots. She also had the highest plus/minus of any player on either team with a +21 rating. This was very noticeable as she did a very solid job defending Minnesota’s All-Star Center Sylvia Fowles. Russell altered multiple shots and forced Fowles to miss, even in single coverage. When Russell wasn’t in the game, Fowles was able to score at a much higher clip. Another major reason the Storm were victorious is that they held All-Star guard Odyssey Sims to just five points on 2-12 shooting. And while a lot of the stats were comparable, the Storm held an eight to nothing advantage in blocked shots. Minnesota also had four players score in double figures led by Lexie Brown‘s 20 points off the bench (more on her later). Sylvia Fowles had 16 points and seven rebounds. Danielle Robinson had an impressive double-double with 14 points and 10 assists. Stephanie Talbot chipped in with 10 points. The Storm never trailed in this game. Seattle started off 4-4 including 3 three-pointers to jump all over the Lynx. Seattle was 7-8 to start the game and had a 17-6 lead just four minutes into the game. Minnesota started 2-2 but then went ice cold from the floor shooting just 1-12 from the floor in their next 12 shots. The Storm finished 4-8 from 3-point range after one and led 26-16. Shavonte Zellous drained a three with about a second left in the quarter. That wouldn’t be the last time a Seattle player would do this. Early in the 2nd quarter, we saw an interesting lineup with Shavonte Zellous, Sami Whitcomb, and Blake Dietrick all on the court at the same time. This was partly because Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis suffered a left knee injury where she landed awkwardly after a jump shot. Mosqueda-Lewis played just two minutes prior to the injury and would not return in the game. She is questionable for Friday’s game against Las Vegas. Seattle led 50-40 at the half. The Storm shot 54% while the Lynx shot just 39% in the first half. The Storm would use a 10-2 run to go up 18 at 60-42 to start the 3rd quarter. Seattle would extend their lead to as many as 21 points in the quarter. Natasha Howard had 12 of her 33 points in the 3rd quarter including a beautiful step back 3 as the third quarter came to an end. Seattle outscored Minnesota 21-14 in the 3rd period. The Storm would take a 17 point lead into the 4th quarter, 71-54. The victory appeared well in hand for Seattle, but then the team completely fell apart for the first six minutes of the final period. The Storm committed seven of their 21 turnovers in the fourth. Minnesota found life after Danielle Robinson forced Blake Dietrick into back-to-back turnovers just by pressuring the ball in the backcourt. The first turnover resulted in a fast-break layup from Robinson to Lexie Brown. The 2nd time, Blake attempted to stop Robinson for scoring and was called for a Flagrant 1 foul. While it was a bit of a questionable Flagrant call. There is a legit concern about Dietrick’s ability on this team. She appears to be lacking in confidence offensively and is extremely limited in her ability to score. This is also not the first time I’ve seen her struggle to bring the ball up the floor when being heavily pressured. And she looked visibly shaken and upset on the sidelines after committing the turnovers. The Lynx cut the Storm’s 17-point 4th quarter lead down to just one point at 78-77 with 4:05 left to play in the game. Minnesota used several of Seattle’s turnovers against them. Lexie Brown was also huge knocking down multiple 3’s in the quarter. The Lynx would never take the lead, cutting Seattle’s lead to just one again at 80-79 with 3:30 left to play. Minnesota would not score again for the rest of the game as Seattle would finish the game on a 10-0 run. Minnesota had 34 points off of Seattle’s 21 turnovers, the most points given up off turnovers since 06/28/2009 in a defeat to the Los Angeles Sparks. And yet, the Storm managed to hang on to win this game. Coach Hughes was proud of his team for hanging on and executing down the final stretch. “You know, you knew Minnesota was gonna make runs at us. I thought we played really well. We made shots. And our pace was very good throughout the game. And then we face a little adversity with losing a couple of players and you knew Minnesota is playing well, and you knew they were going to make a run. And I was just really proud, we didn’t give up the lead, they got it to one and D- Rob had that shot, but then we had a little presence at the end. And that, we’re learning about ourselves as our team has moved around personnel-wise so much. But I was pleased because you knew as well Minnesota’s playing it was gonna be, at some point, a run we would have to deal with and could we come back from it. Coach Hughes during the post-game Point Guard Problems Without Sue Bird the Storm are extremely thin at Point Guard. And it was extremely troublesome when Jordin Canada went down with a knee injury earlier this year. While Shavonte Zellous and Sami Whitcomb have done their best to run the backup point guard position, that isn’t their natural position and their play won’t always be positive. While it’s true that Sami Whitcomb had a career-high eight assists in the game. She also had a team-high five turnovers. Unfortunately, Canada went down with another injury in the final five minutes of this game. She was driving to the hoop and stumbled to the floor. She was either tripped or lost her balance while attempting to drive through traffic. Sadly, as she fell face-first to the ground, it appeared that her head may have made contact with Lexie Brown’s knee. Canada laid on the ground as the Lynx recovered the ball and she did not get back for the entire next possession which allowed Lexie Brown to drain a wide-open three-pointer. Seattle called a timeout and Canada did not return to the game. It is unclear on whether or not Canada will be available to play on Friday night back in Seattle against the Las Vegas Aces. With the myriad of injuries this season and the possibility that Sue Bird may not play at all this season, I completely understand having Blake Dietrick on the team. But I do believe that Alisha Valavanis should look to add another point guard with greater upside in the future and that could be a priority for the 2020 WNBA Draft. Lexie Brown and My Confusion with the Connecticut Sun I honestly don’t understand it. The Connecticut Sun have been a relatively successful organization in recent years, finishing as the 4th overall seed the past two seasons. They currently own the second-best record in the WNBA this season. But more than anything else I associate the team as one that has given up on some talented players. In 2015, they drafted Elizabeth Williams 4th overall. Then they barely played the 6’3″ center out of Duke during her rookie year. The Sun would then trade Williams before the 2016 season to the Atlanta Dream. Williams would go on to win the WNBA’s Most Improved Player of the Year Award in 2016 averaging nearly 12 points, over eight rebounds and nearly 2.5 blocks per game (2nd best in the WNBA). Williams would be named to the WNBA All-Star team in 2017 while putting up similar numbers the following season. And while her numbers have dipped a little over the past two seasons, Williams has still proven to be a high-quality player for the Dream. And I can’t help but feel like we might be seeing the same thing happen again, this time with Lexie Brown. Brown was a highly touted point guard out of Duke entering the 2018 WNBA Draft. It was likely that the Storm were going to draft either Jordin Canada or Lexie Brown with the 5th overall pick and while I’m very happy they selected Canada as that was the player I wanted them to take after watching her dominate the PAC12 her junior and senior seasons. I was still very high on Lexie Brown as well. But Connecticut never gave her any playing time to develop and shipped her off to Minnesota before this season for a 2nd round pick that never even made the Sun’s final roster. And while Brown continues to develop in Minnesota, she has shown flashes of brilliance already this season. She has scored over 20 points a couple of times already and is averaging around 8 points off the bench for the Lynx. She is also shooting over 41% from 3-point range. I’ll be interested to see if Brown improves even more in another year or two and I’ll wonder what prospect the Sun will give up on next. Up Next The Storm host the #1 overall seed Las Vegas Aces and UW’s own Kelsey Plum on Friday 7/19 – 7:00pm at UW’s Hec Ed/Alaska Airlines Arena. 2018’s rookie of the year A’ja Wilson and the 2018 MVP runner-up Liz Cambage will look to continue their winning ways against Seattle.
(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. All-Star Nominations 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 Future Stars 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. Up Next 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.